embarrassing bathroom incident, coworker won’t go to trainings, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My husband had an embarrassing bathroom incident at work

My husband has a digestive disorder where he sometimes has to urgently — like urgently — poop. He works in a big box store and the staff bathroom is inconveniently located up a set of stairs and through a locked door.

The other day he wasn’t able to make it to the bathroom in time and pooped himself in the middle of the sales floor. He turned around and left work, then the next day resigned effective immediately. He didn’t want to face anyone he’s worked with again. His manager called and asked him to reconsider. He said they would hold off on posting the job for a week to give him time to think it over.

I understand how humiliating and embarrassing it was, but he has a medical condition. I expressed that I really hoped that he could get past this and change his mind but so far he refuses to consider it. He’s been looking for other jobs but there aren’t a lot of jobs in our area that he’s qualified for. I think he’s overthinking how this was viewed by his coworkers — they probably feel bad for him but he thinks they would see him as gross. He is ashamed about what happened, like it was a personal failing. Is this really as bad as he thinks? Is his reputation at work unrecoverable?

It’s so understandable that he’s mortified but NO! This is not as bad as he thinks, and his reputation is not unrecoverable. I doubt there’s much he needs to recover from in that respect at all. Assuming he works with reasonably decent people, his coworkers aren’t thinking, “How disgusting!” They’re thinking, “Oh no, poor guy, that seems like something medical and I hope he’s okay.” They’re almost certainly assuming it was something medical, because the alternative would be … well, I’m not even sure what the alternative would be. Few adults are going around deliberately pooping their pants, so of course it was out of his control and doesn’t reflect on him in any way.

Maybe it would help for him to read other people’s accounts of similar incidents? The comment thread on this post has a lot.

2. Coworker doesn’t attend trainings but wants me to train her

I have a coworker, Susan, who started about a year after me. A coworker (who has left the company) and I taught her how to use Old System. Recently, our company has moved to New System to process payments.

We were giving months of heads-up that we were moving to New System and we were both invited to several large and small group trainings. Susan did not attend any of these meetings. Now, she keeps messaging me asking how to do X, Y, and Z in New System. I keep telling her to ask for a walk-through from the person who manages New System and she always says she will … and she doesn’t. A few days would go by and she will ask again. And again.

I pride myself in being approachable and helpful but it’s starting to irritate me. It feels like the friend who skipped class but wants to copy your notes. Am I being petty? I want to say something to her manager but we’re the only two who manage payments and I don’t want office drama.

No, you’re not being petty. And this isn’t about drama. It’s about clear-cut work issues that are impacting your ability to do your job, and Susan’s ability to do hers.

You have two choices: you can address it with Susan, or you can ask your boss to intervene. To address it with Susan, you could say, “I was happy to help at first, but at this point you need to be fully trained in the system. I’ve asked you before to set up training with Jane, and you really need to do that ASAP. I can’t keep being available to answer questions in lieu of real training.” And then if she asks for help after that: “Again, I’ve got to point you toward Jane for training.”

But if that doesn’t work or you just want your boss in the loop now (which would be entirely reasonable — this is something any competent manager would want to know about), there’s nothing pot-stirring about going to your boss and saying, “Could you help Susan get set up with training on New System? She hasn’t been trained by Jane yet and instead keeps coming to me for help, and it’s taking up a lot of my time. I’ve asked her to see Jane for training but it hasn’t happened and I think she needs a nudge from you to do it.”

3. My coworker asked for a reference and I feel like I’m in an impossible position

I work in a small office (two owners, three professionals, and four support staff). Only the owners have true supervisory authority.

One of the support staff who reports to me mostly has told me, but not the owners, that she wants to leave. Her new potential job has sent me a list of written questions I am expected to answer about her performance. I feel caught between a rock and a hard place here. Should I answer them? Should I tell the boss? I have a good relationship with everybody and I’d like to preserve it, but if this goes through, I’m going to still be here and she’s not, and I don’t want the owners to think I’m hiding things from them. I feel like she has put me in an impossible position.

Please give her the reference, and do not tell your boss. It’s very, very normal for people to discreetly ask colleagues for a reference. Telling your boss would be an enormous violation and could result in her being pushed out of her job before she’s ready to go. (Read the next question for one form of this.)

This is not your information to share. Keeping it quiet won’t be wronging the owners; it’s not info they’re entitled to. If/when your coworker leaves, it’s unlikely you’ll be accused of helping her exit — unless it’s highly dysfunctional there, in which case there are bigger problems anyway and you might as well help your support staff escape. (Also, they’re unlikely to know who she used as references, but you can ask her to keep your help confidential if you want to.)

Again, this is a very, very normal thing to discreetly do for a colleague, especially one who semi-reports to you.

4. My boss is shortening my coworker’s notice period

My coworker, who I’m friendly with outside of work, recently gave his two weeks notice at our job. Then, a few days after the meeting, our boss emails him and says she thought about it more and has decided that he doesn’t need the full two weeks and is setting his last day much earlier. My coworker is on a work visa and said he’d like to stay another week because there’s only so much time he can stay in the U.S. between jobs. He needs his new visa approved before he can start his next job, so he can’t just start his new job earlier. After he tried to explain this to my boss (and a few emails back and forth), she got very irritated and said it was pretty inappropriate for him to be negotiating this, as he’s the one who’s quitting.

Was my coworker in the wrong here? I understand that the notice period is a courtesy for the job you’re leaving, but should my boss have been a little more helpful given an otherwise great period of employment with my coworker?

Your boss is being awful. Letting someone work out a two-week notice period is hardly a major imposition for an employer, assuming your coworker is in good standing. Your boss’s refusal is already a jerk move, but add in that she knows it could affect his visa and it’s full-on horrible.

To be clear, in some situations it can make sense to say, “You know, looking at where your projects stand right now, we can actually wrap up earlier than that. Why don’t we just do one week rather than two?” But when a good employee explains they were counting on the full two weeks, a reasonable boss backs off. And if they don’t, they realize they’re seriously compromising their chances of getting a full two weeks from anyone else who quits in the future, since other people will now be expecting the same treatment when they resign.

Caveat: there are industries where it’s normal to be sent home immediately upon resigning, for security reasons. But you know if you’re in one of those and it doesn’t sound like you are. And even in those fields, good employers pay out the two weeks notice period; they don’t just cut you off from your income that day.

Your boss’s commentary on this (“he’s the one who’s quitting!”) sounds like sour grapes. She’s thoroughly in the wrong.

5. Was this interviewer’s suggestion a trap?

I recently interviewed for a role with a company, and the hiring manager is moving me forward for consideration. I sent a note thanking her for the conversation and reiterating my interest in the position, as I really do think it would be a great fit. In response to that, she confirmed she’d be moving me forward and also linked me another role within the company that she thought would be up my alley and said she’d put in a good word for me if I applied to it, stating that the company’s process is pretty fluid and it was good to keep opportunities open.

Naturally, I’m quadruple-thinking this, because I’ve never had this happen before. Is it a test of my genuine interest for her role? A compliment to me that she would support me for other positions while still pursuing a role on her team? An indication that I’m not her first choice but still thinks I’d be a good fit for the company? Some other sort of trap?

In full transparency, the new role she suggested would also fit my skillset and so I’m thankful she pointed it out. I think I will take her up on the suggestion but I’m just not sure if I should if it will ruin my chances to get the job I originally applied for!

It’s not a trap. Take her at face value! She thinks you’re a good candidate for the job with her but they’re not done with the process and nothing is guaranteed, so meanwhile here’s another role that might also be interested in. That’s it! You should feel free to apply for the second job too. If you want, you can email to let her know that you did apply for it, but that you remain very interested in the job with her and are excited to talk about it again whenever she’s ready to.

Hiring managers know people are applying to multiple jobs. It’s not anything you need to feel weird about.

Read an update to this letter here

{ 354 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    If you are commiserating with OP’s husband, I ask that you do so without being graphic (and I have removed a couple of comments that were overly vivid); you can commiserate without using graphic imagery. Thank you.

  2. Ellis Hubris*

    LW#1- that is so hard! I have two medical conditions that are just gross and I don’t go anywhere without change of clothes, often wear padded underwear or adult diapers. It’s mortifying, people will only be concerned and would not want your husband to be without a job. It happens, people will understand. And it will give your husband a lot of empathy for anyone in the store that has any issues.

    I promise. People won’t be jerks about this.

    Signed, regularly mortified human.

    1. Princess Xena*

      Seconded! Accidents happen. People barf, pee, poop, and bleed at work sometimes (or faint, or fall off of things, etc etc). The only response a sane person will make is to check if you’re ok or if you need medical attention.

      If it helps at all I can comfortably say that most folks with a menstrual cycle have been unexpectedly caught out at one point or another and we know what you’ve been through!

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        That was my thought. I don’t have any serious medical conditions, but there are times with my period that yeah, I’m dashing into the bathroom between classes.

      2. drinking Mello Yello*

        When I worked retail, I cleaned up a coworker’s vomit off the floor. While I wasn’t jazzed about having to mop, I mostly just wanted them to be okay (they were; it was some weird stomach bug). Stuff like that just happens sometimes and everyone’s just hoping the person who’s having the issue is okay.

        1. Selina Luna*

          I had to learn the hard way, don’t go to work in a school with norovirus (I didn’t realize I had this) while pregnant (I thought it was morning sickness until… other symptoms hit). I was SENT HOME by my boss, who told me not to come in the next day either.

      3. Pants*

        Thirded! I’ve done just about all of these things. No fainting, but the amount of trips and falls I have on record is impressive. (Tuck n’ roll!)

        It sucks to have a blowout but people understand that it happens. Unless Mr. OP is having daily/weekly mishaps, I doubt anything will be said. Mr. OP was having a medical issue. Pretty sure making fun of those is a Big No.

        You aren’t alone, Mr. OP.

      4. Aloe Vera*

        Slightly off-topic, but I LOVE the way you phrased that: folks with a menstrual cycle. Such a good way to include everyone!

    2. Poopsie*

      A change of clothes is a good suggestion if the OP’s husband has somewhere to store them at work. just in case.

      OP, whilst this hasn’t happened to me, it did happen to our building engineer a few years ago. We came into work to find him stressing about it but it had happened just prior to us arriving. We are fortunate that we have showers in the building and washing machines to wash the provided towels so he was able to have a shower and wash/dry his clothes before he went home.

      If it helps your husband, I can assure you none of us thought it was disgusting. It’s obviously not pleasant, but we were concerned for him, that he was OK and that he would be able to get home. When he came back, we just asked him if he was OK now and that was it. So yeah, if he goes back, he may have to face people asking him if he’s OK, but if they are decent people that would be it.

      If it helps, please ask him what he would think if it’d happened to one of his colleagues rather than him. Hopefully he would say that he would be suitably concerned for their health and nothing else, and you can point out that is what people will think in regards to him.

      It happens. Even with people without medical issues, sometimes you pick up a bug, or you’ve eaten something that doesn’t quite agree with you. It’s natural to be embarrassed, and for it to play on your mind, but quitting is an over reaction. IF it turned out he worked with a bunch of immature jerks who did treat him badly for it, then he would always have the choice of leaving in the future, but if it’s all his assumption then he should reconsider.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yeah. Bodies do stuff we don’t want sometimes and most people won’t mention it again. I, and most of my female colleagues have had unanticipated periods happening at some stage in my professional life and it’s not something you hold against people or laugh at because it can happen to any of us. You let someone know or discreetly pass them a sanitary towel if needed.

        I’ve also (on a flight back from DC) been overcome with food poisoning and vomited while waiting for the toilet to become free. I was mortified and kept trying to apologise to the lovely Irish steward who was passing by. He just brought me a bucket, held my hair back and patted my shoulder until I was done. I felt like everyone had watched me be unwell and felt dreadfully self conscious about it. He just said “people get sick sometimes travelling. You sit down and I’ll clear up and bring you a nice cup of tea.” Nobody on the plane said anything and he was really lovely.

        Most people in my experience have had something happen to them before and so are willing to be compassionate and understanding when it happens to others. There are a few jerks out there but in my view they’re the minority.

    3. I just work here*

      Ditto. I too have had several operations that have ..putting it delicately…replumbed me…with some resulting difficulties in this area. I have discreetly shared this with specific colleagues after realizing that it sometimes becomes evident–rushing out of meetings to the bathroom, unpleasant sounds and odors….you get the picture. I am grateful for the support I’ve gotten from some really good people at my job.

      I hope your husband will take a chance and rethink his resignation. I understand his embarassment–been there—but I never realized how compassionate my coworkers could be until I gave them a chance.

    4. What a way to make a living*

      Letter 1 – does it help if he thinks about it as being sick at work?

      That’s probably much closer to how people see it.

      If your colleague had a digestive problem, and they threw up at work, how would most people respond?

      Also, maybe invite him to think about whether he would judge another colleague for a similar issue? Whether reasonable people he knows would do so? Does he have reason to believe his colleagues are unreasonable, or very immature, or cruel bullies? If not, then it is unlikely they would judge someone for being unwell at work.

      1. Crimson*

        I love this. It’s not that I’ve pooped my pants at work so much as I threw up out my but at work.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      OP, I have had my own version of this.

      Fortunately, I worked right next to the bathroom and it was always unlocked. I had a situation where I was in the bathroom every 20 minutes or so. It was Not Good. Part of why I was in there every 20 minutes was because I could not feel the emergency coming on. omg.

      I have a couple suggestions.

      If he lands on never going back, I really don’t blame him. But help him to understand that he needs a game plan because the fear is real. This only needs to happen once to really scare someone. It’s worth talking it through with a doc an building a plan so that he can regain his confidence.

      I have worked a lot of retail and they are overall pretty strange about their bathrooms. The bathrooms are far away, they are locked, and other problems. If he does go back, I think he should ask for his own key or other accommodation. The other thing he could consider is just having a predetermined interval that he takes a bathroom break. It sounds like his bosses would work with him if he wanted this plan.

      For me, I talked with a doc and I needed to get tighter control over my food choices. For such a hard problem (to me) this was a relatively easy solution and well worth it. But I did have several appointments and it involved an investment of time, it was worth it in the long run. But the conversation started when I explained just how much difficulty I was having. If the docs don’t know, they can’t help.

      1. Nonny anon*

        +1, having a plan, requesting accommodations, and talking to doctors again — agree entirely.

    6. Anon for This*

      This is an awful thing that sometimes happens to people, that leaves raw feelings of shame and we don’t talk about it in casual company. But I would bet that many of his coworkers have some “like that time when” thoughts about themselves and loved ones and medical conditions that they have never included in “So how was your weekend?” responses.

      Per site rules, I’m not going to share ugly details of my colonoscopy prep beyond that clothes were ruined and it was extremely unpleasant. I don’t bring it up at work or anywhere else that it’s not immediately, practically relevant to helping the other person. But it happened, and I would bet no one at the gastrointestinal practice would give me any points for originality.

    7. Bunny*

      Alison, ADA wise, I’m curious if this employee was restricted to that incredibly inconvenient bathroom, or was a.lowed to use other bathrooms, like customer bathrooms, should they exist. This is assuming he asked for an accommodation. I am not an attorney.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        I do feel like this is just a problem in a big box store where they’re designed as one big room. Even if there are two customer bathrooms along opposite walls, you’re quite far away from both of them a lot of the time with weaving through aisles required to get to them.

        The employee bathroom is going to be even further away.

    8. Artemesia*

      I hope he did agree to go back. The thing about incidents like this is that they become MORE memorable if you run way — they you are the guy who slunk away from the job and everyone talks about it in the business forever.

      Horrible stuff happens. Most people have or have a close relative to whom something this embarrassing has happened. It is. very embarrassing but grownups really do understand. His best play is to be openly embarrassed and joke about it when he returns. It really does help to joke. ‘I am so embarrassed guys and I never want to hear about this disaster of biblical proportions again!!’ with wry look. And if it is an ongoing risk — there are undergarments that are protective — the technology of sleek disposable underwear or underwear designed with absorbancy has made huge strides as the baby boom ages. The sleeker disposable garments don’t show under pants and might make him feel more secure for while.

      1. Stuff Happens*

        This is what I was thinking, too. Not just that it could balloon to a bigger deal for the workplace he left if he slinks off, but it will take up rent in his head for years because it will remain unresolved. What happens when a coworker from that job ends up at the same job? His first thought will be that they know, and worrying they’ll tell other people. Or he’ll apply for a job somewhere and know the boss from that job and then he has to take all that baggage into the interview. But if he goes back, it’s a few days/a week of discomfort and then he’s past it.

    9. Anon for This*

      I once worked at a grocery store where a coworker pooped themself regularly, and what flipped the switch from “concerned about coworker” to “disgust” in peoples’ minds wasn’t the medical condition itself. It was the fact that after doing so, they didn’t let anyone know, and instead walked up and down every aisle in the store, smearing feces as they went. This caused the poor janitor to have to deep clean THE ENTIRE STORE, and caused the entire store to smell like feces for the rest of the day, and we only learned it was them after weeks of wondering who was doing it (it happened repeatedly).

      As long as your husband doesn’t deliberately smear feces over the entire work area, your coworkers will understand.

        1. Anon for This*

          At that point the entire store smelled so horrible we were trying not to gag, and the relative increase in terribleness near them was not immediately apparent.

      1. ferrina*

        Yep. “Concern” is the default setting for decent people. I agree with Anon For This that “disgust” is more about how the person with the medical condition treats it. If someone is cavalier about exposing coworkers to feces, yeah, that’s an issue. But OP’s husband sounds kind and considerate.

    10. Very Anon*

      Anal plugs and diapers are a must for fecal incontinence sufferers. I developed fear of leaving my house because of this, but it’s under control now. Had to have a coworker go buy me new clothes once. Doctors disappointed me, I discovered on my own that probiotics and fiber capsules helped tremendously, as did stopping metformin and magnesium citrate (both have horrible laxative effects, doctors didn’t tell me that either. Magnesium glycinate is OK.)

      Best of luck, tough situation to manage.

    11. TheRain'sSmallHands*

      Like others here, I’ve done it. I have both some urinary incontinences (always wear a pad) but worse, IBS so bad that sometimes I don’t make it to the toilet. Its rare, but it happens often enough that there is a change of clothes in my car. I’m only at the adult diapers point when something else is going on (if I have a really deep cough, who knows what is coming out when!)

      I suspect this is more common than people suspect, because those of us with the problem learn to handle it quickly and discreetly.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        This is where I am – urinary incontinence plus IBS-D. I wear a long pad that can mostly catch it when I get the “Oh, God, here come the Hershey Squirts, let me stumble to the bathroom before I explode.” I’ve been the person who really needed to sit near the bathroom. When I am on site I take generic immodium before work just to slow the progress to give me time.

        I don’t tell my coworkers, but if I’m at the office I always have spare underwear and pants, just in case. My car had a bottom change too, plus supplies. I have to put off shopping some days because I ate something that set me off.

        I WFH now, so I can dash to the bathroom, and clean up if I don’t make it, without anyone being the wiser.

        The statistics on things like urinary incontinence and IBS-D are kind of astounding. It is actually a huge problem as people get older that no one really talks about. Employers who don’t accept the reality of it are discriminating without knowing it.

    12. bopper*

      He definitely needs to wear some kind of absorbant underwear/diapers to prevent this sort of thing.

      1. Anon_Manager*

        Having been in this situation before, absorbent underwear/diapers can only do so much and for certain accidents are really not designed to handle some situations well.

      2. Crimson*

        Idk, I had horrible stomach issues for a five year period and I pooped my pants thrice. Way too many times for comfort in my 20s, but paying for expensive uncomfy undies for every day of the week would have been overkill.

        For years I just always carried extra undies with me. It wasn’t a “stay at work” level viable solution, but you throw away your bad undies in the bathroom, clean up as best you can, and leave with some low level dignity to shower at home.

    13. Anon4This*

      It happened once to me. The only one who knew was my boss and he was very kind about letting me go home and never, ever brought it up. That being said, it was probably 10-15 years ago and I’m still mortified. It’s nice that everyone is being nice in the comments but when it happens to you it’s horrifying. I completely understand OP’s husband’s reluctance to go back to that job.

    14. SheLooksFamiliar*

      OP, I feel awful for your husband. I’ve had my own workplace ‘events’ and know how embarrassing and frustrating they can be. But I’ll echo everyone else, my co-workers were understanding and kind to me.

      We can’t convince your husband to feel differently, but I hope he feels better knowing we’ve all been there.

      1. Quiet Liberal*

        If you’ve been in the workforce long enough, you’ve had at least one mortifying, to you, “bodily event.” I’m so very sorry that this happened to your poor husband, OP. If this was a good place to work and he loved his job, I sure hope he returns. Sounds like his boss might also be willing to help him figure out a good solution for this health issue. As far as coworkers being jerks about it, most adults have graduated from the high school mindset and will be kind. If he can’t bring himself to go back, I hope the new job is even better in all ways for him.

    15. Dust Bunny*

      When I was in first grade I projectile-vomited all over everyone’s snow boots. Even my classmates didn’t give me a hard time about it, and we were just kids.

      I mean, if this happened to one of his coworkers, would your husband think coworker was gross or would he be concerned for coworker? Concerned, right? Right.

    16. Momma Bear*

      One of my coworkers injured themselves in the first month of work and then had to be out for a bit to recover. The lingering thought wasn’t “what a klutz” but “wow, I’m glad they are OK!”

      I would encourage your husband to talk to the manager again. The fact that the manager reached out and said please think about it means that they (and presumably others) are just worried about his well-being and respect his work. Maybe ask if there’s another bathroom that can be installed or other accommodations that can be made for your husband and anyone else who might need a restroom not on a top floor. He might also ask to change shifts for a while so he’s working with people that weren’t there at the time.

      I once had to tie a sweater around myself and buy new pants because I ripped them in a way that could not be fixed for work…when I was meeting a client. Things happen.

    17. Beth*

      If something like that happened to a co-worker, my first thought would be “Yikes, is he all right, should we call 911?” and my second thought would be “Is this something contagious?”

      With both questions being answered “No”, I would be only too eager to support the co-worker with a good strong cup of We’ll Pretend This Never Happened, And If It Happens Again I’ll Cover For You.

    18. JamminOnMyPlanner*

      I have a medical condition as well that could cause something like this to happen. I feel so bad for him. Luckily my “issue” has never caused problems in public but I have had a few “accidents” at home where I can only thank the bathroom gods that I was at home!

      I probably should have an emergency change of clothes in my car going forward….

      But yeah, I understand how utterly mortified her husband is, but I’m sure his coworkers feel nothing but pity. We had something happen at my office along those lines recently–not a coworker but a client. We all felt so horrible for her! None of us thought she was gross or disgusting, we just felt so bad for her that it happened.

      One of my coworkers ended up going to get a change of clothes from the client’s car.

    19. marvin*

      I wonder if the letter writer’s husband would feel better if he reframed this as something embarrassing that happened to him rather than something embarrassing he did. It sucks but it’s like having your pants spontaneously fall off or being chased by a swarm of crows (both true incidents fyi). It doesn’t reflect on him as a person.

    20. Unalaska*

      Agree. Please tell your husband that more people than not have accidentally eliminated in public. Maybe not at work, but rare is the person who will not identify with this or who will find him “gross”. Moreover, the vast majority menstruating women have their own stories of discovering that they’ve bled on something when it’s too late to hide it. I once stood up from a job interview and realized I’d bled on the chair (had very irregular periods at the time). I can’t imagine his co-workers doing anything other than empathizing and forgetting.

    21. Meep*

      We had a homeless man come into our grocery store a decade ago when I worked there. He ended up peeing himself in the produce trying to get to the bathroom in time. I remember it not because I was disgusted by him, but because of how positively miserable and apologetic he looked. He didn’t want to do this to himself. It just happened and it took away all of his remaining dignity. I wasn’t the only one willing to clean it up to – which says a lot about teenagers in an affluent area.

    22. Third or Nothing!*

      I had awful awful morning sickness for half of my pregnancy with my daughter. There were several times I didn’t make it to the spot I was headed for. Everyone was always very kind and tried as best they could to help me feel better. Most people, in my experience, feel sympathy and maybe a twinge of “oh man I’m glad that didn’t happen to me” and not revulsion. Everyone has had mortifying incidents in their life, whether it’s body fluid related or not. These sorts of things are part of the human experience, so most folks can relate on some level and just want to make sure you’re ok.

    23. LittleMarshmallow*

      For sure. 15 years in manufacturing and while it’s never happened to me, the long shifts and sometimes uninterruptible work gets the best of someone and accidents happen. I know of several people this has happened to and not one person ever said anything along the lines of disgust about it. Mostly pity sometimes with a side of humor depending on the crew and how close they are with each other. Ah night shift bonding…

  3. phira*

    omg LW1, I have IBD and have pooped myself while teaching. I think three times, possibly four. And that’s not the limit to the number of times it’s happened overall, either, just the number of times it happened while I was in front of the classroom, teaching and unable to leave to use the bathroom. It has happened in other scenarios as well, outside of work.

    Honestly, it is absolutely humiliating, probably the most humiliating thing that I’ve ever experienced, and it’s been even worse that it’s happened more than once. In every case, after I was able to get to the bathroom, I did my best to clean myself up, and once I was able to “escape” (aka done with teaching that class), I immediately went home sick the rest of the day. I am absolutely sure that, at least twice, some students knew what had happened, although no one ever said anything to me.

    I 100% understand how your husband is feeling. Please, if reading my experience helps him feel less alone, I hope you share it with him. I hope that he reconsiders leaving his job, and instead talks to his supervisor about medical accommodations. At the very least, any supervisor with half a conscience/soul would have let your husband take the rest of the day off sick.

    It happens to the best of us. It really does!

    1. Andy’s pooping incident*

      LW1 my colleague got food poisoning and pooped himself in the office, and the sight of him shuffling awkwardly to the bathroom, shaking his head, while announcing to all and sundry, ‘oh my god I just shat myself!’” will stay with me as one of my favourite workplace moments. Did I think it was gross? Nope. Did I think he could help it? Nope. Did I feel sorry for him? Absolutely. But I must say he totally owned his pooping incident and made sure every knew about it. He even re-enacted the incident for anyone who missed it. He certainly wasn’t known as the guy that pooped himself, but from time to time when we were talking about him after he’d left our Dept we would say ‘remember when Andy pooped himself? Man that was funny’. Which it was. Nobody ever thought less of him. In fact we really admired his refusal to be even the slightest bit embarrassed of what is after all a totally normal bodily function that sometimes goes awry.

      1. Gerry Keay*

        Learning to turn embarrassing moments into comedy is truly one of the most potent coping mechanisms out there. I’ve been very klutzy all my life, and I realized around middle school that if you laugh at yourself first, everyone else will automatically be laughing with you instead of at you. Owning the embarrassment gives you back some autonomy in the situation, and helps combat some of the shame that comes with feeling powerless.

        1. RunShaker*

          This is a huge fear for me. But I know if this happened to me in the office, the first thought from my coworkers would be this is medical. I have IBS-D & switching to WFH has been wonderful but my company wants us back in the office on hybrid so I’ll have to be strict with my diet to control my symptoms. I’m supposed to follow a certain diet which is very hard cause it means you can’t eat out & giving up a lot of different types of food. There has been times I decided it would be best to stay home. I’m not sure if hubby has been to doctor, but definitely go! Or if need to, find another doctor that will be helpful. Plus all suggestions above are wonderful & I’ll be using as well.

      2. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

        I pulled this off while vacationing in Hawaii. I didn’t poop myself, but I went snorkeling and one day, then the very same day spent several hours on the highest peak. On this Mars-like mountain, I felt nauseous, couldn’t eat, chills, couldn’t catch my breath, joint pain that made me walk like a 90+ year old. Frantic Google search later, and I just ended up kind of announcing, “not COVID! I am an idiot who has the bends! Don’t cram together underwater and high altitude activities!”

    2. CreepyPaper*

      I have Crohns, been there, done that. Spare pants and plenty of wet wipes live in my desk drawer just in case. And also in my car, and I keep a spare pair of underwear and leggings and the wipes in my handbag because one time I had a mishap while I was in the middle of a dockyard and there were no toilets within easy distance so I sorted myself out behind a cargo container :/

      Please tell him many of us get it, LW1, and have had similar experiences!

    3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      It sounds like the supervisor would like the LW’s husband to stay so I bet he’d be willing to work with him to come up with a plan. Shoot, it could even be something as simple as assigning him primarily to the sections closest to the bathroom and giving him a place to store spare clothes.

      1. irritable vowel*

        Agreed – it sounds like OP’s husband is a valued employee and his supervisor doesn’t want him to leave over this! Bodies sometimes betray us and it’s unfortunate that he had to experience this in a public way, but he’d doubtless be surprised how many people it happens to. We all have bodies that do things we don’t want them to do sometimes. OP, remind your husband that Al Roker did this in the White House.

    4. Consuela*

      Came here to say similar! I was talking with my therapist about it once, and she said something interesting: What if the worst is true, that everyone does know and that some of them judge me or make fun of me? We talked through that whole scenario and my fears/humiliation (for me, we were talking about an incident at church, but I think job would be similar). I just needed start from the point of validating that fear, that, yeah, it’s possible that I’ll be ridiculed for this. Starting from that point — ie treating it as a possibility — really helped me build the feeling that I could get through that particular nastiness if it did happen. It didn’t in the end! which is another wonderful kind of validation. But I felt more confident of my own continued worth because I’d acknowledged and thought through the thing that actually scared me (ie, ridicule or whispers) and calmed my own shame down, and wasn’t just depending on what other people thought or what I hoped they would think (ie, most people are nice so hopefully I’ll be ok). I could arrive at a more compassionate view of myself and from there build the expectation that others would also have that view — and if they didn’t, well, that was about them more than me. It took a long time, but it started with that moment of saying, sure, so what if I feel ashamed and/or somebody else makes me feel judged or humiliated — what happens then? Not sure if that all makes sense, but anyway, leaving it here. Your husband is not alone!!!

      1. mlem*

        Accepting and working through the feelings rather than just dismissing them is really powerful. I like this suggestion.

    5. Eleanor*

      I never thought I would admit to this but I’ve also pooped myself at work (Thanks, IBD). My company has JUST moved across the city and we now worked right next to a Target, so I cleaned myself the best I could, awkwardly wrapped something around my waist and shuffled to Target for some new clothes (and tried not to think about how I couldn’t wash them before wearing them). I told a coworker that I had started my period unexpectedly because it seemed less embarrassing than admitting I pooped myself.

  4. Yes Please*

    Can people checking references please be conscious of referees’ time? I recently received a written list of questions about a former employee that the company said would take “5 minutes” of my time to answer. There were 16 questions, some with multiple parts, e.g. “What were this person’s 3 greatest strengths with examples of each”. There was no way I could have answered questions like that in less than 20 seconds each! It took me more than an hour, and made me disinclined to want to do anything like that again.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      Hahahaha, I was told last week my work is sending these things out and wanting great amounts of details. Greaaaaaaaaaaat.

    2. The OTHER Other*

      It is quite an imposition, and when it gets to be at this volume, I wonder who’s actually applying for the job. It sounds like the employer is actually asking you to do a written form of an interview. Is the applicant being judged on their merit, or on the merit of getting someone with enough time on their hands to fill this questionnaire out with some degree of eloquence?

      There was a letter a long time ago about some “hiring consultant” of some kind that advocated requiring job applicants get their references to set up time for a lengthy interview, because otherwise they were likely fake.

      I have always tried to be both thorough and fair when answering calls for references, but I would balk at filling out a questionnaire like this, this is more than I’ve done for most jobs *I* apply to, let alone for someone else.

      Now I know how parents of young kids feel when they are required to spend hours making costumes or doing other projects teachers assign them for “homework”. Wait a minute, I’m not back in grade school, you don’t get to assign me projects!

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, no. I’ve always noped out of every assignment like that if at all possible. The only project I remember helping him with was finding, identifying, and photographing wildflowers for a project he did in 5th grade. I mainly walked with him so that he could focus on the plants rather than making sure he’d find his way home again (he’s been going to and from school by himself since the 4th grade, so walking in familiar surroundings without an adult didn’t faze him).

        Luckily now that my son’s about to start junior high, it’s no longer an issue even in theory. It was more likely to happen in kindergarten and daycare, when the kids were too young to do much themselves. I guess I’m glad that we’re in a culture where kids are expected to do their projects themselves. I know of at least one case where a kid got a lower grade even though their project was excellent, because it was so obvious that they couldn’t have done it so perfectly without help.

    3. Babydoc3000*

      Once we had an employee who was pretty terrible, but young and new to the (hard-to-fill) job, so we gave her multiple second chances/additional training/etc. Her mistakes kept compounding, and before we had the chance to let her go she had a huge meltdown and quit somewhat dramatically. She moved away and we thought that was it.

      Something like 6 months to a year later, we get a reference request for her- one of those long ones. 4-5 pages long, rating multiple aspects of job performance, and several “essay questions” (give examples of how this employee managed xyz, etc). We ignored it, while also rolling our eyes that she was naive enough to actually put us down as a reference. If you can’t find anything nice to say, etc.

      Well come to find out this place had a mandatory reference policy and they would not hire you unless you had this ridiculous form filled out by a previous employer. This is NOT industry standard practice- we have had other employees leave in normal circumstances and the most we ever got was a phone call from the boss or HR. The former employee called in tears, they would not hire her without a reference. We sent a letter confirming dates of employment. She called again, more tears, we have to complete the ENTIRE form or she will not be hired. Oh, and if you have multiple superiors, it needs to be done multiple times. They would like 3.

      So we filled it out. Bare bones, single sentence replies to free-answer questions, 1’s and 2’s to almost all the “scale of 1-5”. All 3 forms were identical. No details of the drama, just things like “irregular attendance at work” and “extensive coaching required throughout”.

      She got the job. Guess they were desperate too….

      1. irene adler*

        Wow! Begs the question: what exactly are references used for if a poor reference still garners the job for the candidate?
        (can’t see the forest for the trees)

        1. The OTHER Other*

          Maybe better candidates didn’t ask former employers to do all this. In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

      2. MsM*

        One has to wonder if all the other candidates either withdrew due to the ridiculous reference requirements or couldn’t find anyone willing to put in all that work.

      3. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I also fill these out to the bare bones if they’re REALLY necessary but I always find space to tell them they’re reference requirements are ridiculous and that they’re going to lose good people over it.

      4. Office Lobster DJ*

        Oh my. My heart goes out to that employee. It doesn’t sound like she wanted to do this anymore than you did, but what choice did she have? Did anyone have a way to reach her and explain she should move on after that initial contact? I suppose I get the impulse that ignoring it may have felt easier and that silence may have felt kinder than the truth. But ignoring it, eye rolling, and huffing that she would dare include this company on a list of past employers? Again, it doesn’t sound like she wanted this any more than you did, and she has to have a job, after all.

        1. Everything Bagel*

          She needed a job but she didn’t handle her last job very well at all, including how she left it. Why would her old employer be obligated to spend time on this? They did her a favor by not being explicitly honest about her work.

          1. Office Lobster DJ*

            Like I said, I understand that ignoring it felt kinder. As for an employer’s obligations to former employees, I think that’s a fascinating topic with room for a lot of reasonable opinions.

        2. The OTHER Other*

          She has to have a job, but she doesn’t have to get one that requires a former employer to write essays. You’re not owed a favorable reference.

          1. Office Lobster DJ*

            I agree, which is why I didn’t say anything about being owed a favorable reference. What would you suggest the candidate do to avoid this style of reference check in the future, given that it’s virtually impossible to tell up front? Should she forever be excluded from places that force candidates to list all previous employers? Likely she can get away with leaving this experience off as time goes on, but in the immediate aftermath, she just may not have had that choice.

        3. Babydoc3000*

          To be clear, the eye rolls and scoffing were not in front of/to her- this was in our office in response to this fax that showed up requesting the extensive reference.

    4. Artemesia*

      When I got one of these once, I wrote in the first question — I don’t have time to complete something this time consuming even for a great candidate like Joe Smith– I have attached a letter of reference. Then I did my standard positive letter with examples of Joe’s excellent work. I have a shell that describes the program (an academic program that I directed) and what particular skills the program required and measured and then fill in details about individuals. I gave several examples of his work.

      It is not reasonable to expect people giving references to fill out some loon’s extensive questionnaire about a candidate

      1. EPLawyer*

        Yep. I don’t work for you. Nor am I taking time away from my ACTUAL employer to do your work. Don’t even THINK about me doing it on my own time.

    5. TheRain'sSmallHands*

      We just had the letter who got great references and still didn’t get the job, and a responder who said that checking references unless you intended to give the job to the candidate was rude – and this is why. Even if checking the reference only does take five minutes – its five minutes. But I’ve never taken a reference phone call that has only taken five minutes. Heck, I’ve never written a Linked In recommendation that’s only taken five minutes. And frequently during my professional life, I didn’t have an extra five minutes in my day.

      It feels to me like we’ve become – in this and other things – too entitled to the time and effort of other people.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I had to fill in a thing once, I vaguely remember it was on LinkedIn? I had to click here and there to say which qualities the person demonstrated.
        It was obviously some computer-generated questionnaire that had nothing to do with the person or the job they were applying for. I had to click yes or no for qualities like “taking initiatives” and “demonstrating creative flair”. I clicked no, and luckily there was a box for free expression where I mentioned that the person was in no way supposed to take initiatives or demonstrate creative flair in the work she did for us, but that she obviously knew how to take initiatives since she’d carved out a successful business as a freelancer, and maybe there wasn’t much point asking about creative flair when translating documents for pharmaceutical firms.

        1. JamminOnMyPlanner*

          There are so many fields where “demonstrating creative flair” would be a bad thing! I’m a very creative person–a fiction writer, in fact. However, my current job is writing psychological reports. My boss certainly does not want me “demonstrating my creative flair” on someone’s ADHD diagnosis!

      2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        At least the people making reference calls are using as much of their own time as of the referees–that probably reduces the amount of time-wasting, because now 20-minute calls to three references is an hour of the hiring manager’s time, rather than asking an hour each from references, which the other person will read in a fraction of that time.

    6. FloraPoste*

      I have a former manager a few jobs back who has always sent me reference requests for my more recent jobs with an instruction to fill it in myself for her to read through and send on. I found this excruciating the first time but subsequently it has worked quite well, and I think made me better at recognising my own achievements (and she always BCCs me in the email she sends back to the reference requester, which has given me the happy experience of reading what she sent and seeing that she changed some of my ‘Flora is competent in X’ to ‘Flora excels in X’ which is always nice).
      The one time this didn’t work was when references had to be completed through an online portal, and I accidentally submitted my responses on her behalf, without her reading them, instead of saving them. Luckily no harm done – she found it very funny and I don’t think I misrepresented her judgement – but it was a few days of extreme anxiety until my new job was confirmed…

      1. JamminOnMyPlanner*

        When I was in grad school, I had professors do this. I basically wrote the letter for them and they put their name on it.

        It felt a bit disingenuous, but also, having taught some courses where I was asked for letters of recommendation, it makes sense.

    7. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      This is one of those outsourcing the hiring people’s time to the reference. That same amount of information probably could have been communicated just as effectively in a 30 min phone call

    8. Sir Nose d'Voidoffunk*

      I had never thought about using the word “referee” that way and was so confused for a minute. What if they legitimately blew the call?

      1. SnappinTerrapin*

        I’ve heard it before, but taking things literally, the “referee” in a business context should be the person receiving the reference. An offeror makes an offer, an offeree receives it, a lessor grants a lease to property, a lessee receives the use of the property, etc.

        I appreciate your play on blowing the call, by the way.

    9. Antilles*

      Written lists of questions are the wrong medium for a reference check. It’s more time-consuming, but also it’s less likely to provide real information – both because people will be more reluctant to be fully honest in written format and also because you miss out on nuances of tone.
      If you ask a question about how I rate Jane as an engineer, “Jane has excellent technical knowledge” in text seems very straightforward. But if you ask me over the phone, I pause a little bit and hesitantly say “well, Jane has excellent TECHNICAL knowledge” (with vocal emphasis) and that’s a completely different message…and then on a phone call, you can immediately follow up and dig into that rather than just getting the next written answer from your pre-written list.

    10. Sarah*

      Seriously, I would just write my standard paragraph and write that due to the number of references I’m asked to give, I find it best to give a sta dard reference for each referee

    11. JamminOnMyPlanner*

      I was thinking this! Like, is this common? I don’t even work in a position where I’d have to give a reference but I can’t see many people having time to write an essay about someone’s performance!

  5. Catgirl*

    I feel terribly for your husband LW1 and Alison is absolutely right, all anyone at work will feel for him is empathy. Who doesn’t have a friend / colleague/ loved one with a similar issue, or has one themselves? The compassion he would feel for others needs to extend to himself.

  6. Crohnnie*

    Oh, OP#1, I’ve been in the same boat as your husband. I’m assuming he has an inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s, UC, etc.). Please reassure your husband that he isn’t alone. I’ve had to leave work before due to an accident. I used to keep an emergency bag in the car with things to survive an episode. Things are better for me since I got my colon taken out, but these things still happen.

    To have a manager who is accepting of such a situation is truly wonderful. Yeah, maybe his coworkers will be juvenile about it, but it happened, he survived, and his boss wants him to go back!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I would not be surprised if hubby returns to work and a couple people confide, “You know. I have a similar problem. Here’s what happened to me….” Stuff like this brings out stories that would never see the light of day any other way.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      A coworker of mine, years ago, was in a car accident and got some sort of shock to the spine, I guess? Anyway, he had an issue with wetting himself for a couple of weeks. I think he was wearing adult diapers because as far as I know it didn’t happen at work, or if it did we didn’t know about it, but he did tell us he might need to drop everything and run for the bathroom sometimes just so we wouldn’t be freaked out.

    3. JamminOnMyPlanner*

      I have the same issue and I think mine is because I got my gallbladder out. Anything too fatty or (strangely) too green (yeah the super healthy, delicious “leafy greens” are out for me, sadly) and I’m running too the bathroom.

      My doctor did give me medication for it, but it makes me bloated, constipated, and gassy, which is kind of painful. Some of us just can’t win!

      1. QAPeon (formerly HelpDeskPeon)*

        I had the same issues for years after getting my gallbladder out. Corn on the cob used to be impossible to eat. It’s gotten much, much better over the years, but in the early days I was able to make some adjustments like eating some carbs first to help slow the fiber’s trip from entrance to exit. But ugh, there were some miserable years.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          I still have my gallbladder, but I have the same problem – stuff that’s either too greasy or too much fiber can put my guts on blast. Certain foods I can only eat when I know I’m not going anywhere for the next day or so. Something I eat *with* an immodium just so I’m not instantly dashing for the bathroom.

          There are more people who have this problem than people realize, and lots of people who understand that some days literally “shit happens.”

  7. Beezus*

    I have a hair trigger gag reflex and once threw up on the staff bathroom door and had to go get our facilities guys and I was so apologetic and they were just like “you’re okay though right???”. And then never brought it up again and we’re friendly til I left that retail job. It’s embarrassing but honestly more people have been there than your husband realizes and only a jerk would bring it up or judge him for it.

    1. LPUK*

      I projectile vomited into a waste paper bin in the middle of a large open-plan office. Came out of nowhere so no time to get to a bathroom – turned out to be some form of bug, but like a dog, as soon as I threw up I immediately felt better!. Pretty embarrassing but, as others have said, everyone was concerned but didn’t pester me because they knew I must be embarrassed enough without that. Never mentioned again ( as far as I ever knew anyway)

      1. It happens*

        Me too. I got a horrible stomach bug and the walk to the bathroom from my desk was too long. I stopped at an empty desk and puked. It was so embarrassing.

      2. Lady Blerd*

        Same thing happened to me years ago, a stomach flu tore through our office, I was one of the last ones to get it and ended up throwing up in a garbage can in a similar location. Lucky for me it was the end of the day and most of my colleagues were gone.

      3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        My coworker had norovirus but didn’t realize it yet. Her first bout of vomiting, approximately 36 hours after she was likely exposed during a restaurant outbreak, was vomiting onto a conference table during a site visit by our primary grantor during her presentation. Only judgement that happened was of the restaurant that wouldn’t give employees sick time so they came to work with norovirus.

    2. Coenobita*

      This kind of stuff is so, so common. I had a severe nausea/vomiting disorder in my teens and twenties (I haven’t had an episode in a decade so I seem to have grown out of it, knock on wood, it was awful) and I’m also very prone to motion sickness. I’ve learned all kinds of tips and tricks, I’m basically a vomiting pro, LOL. I’ve had lively discussions with friends who have some kind of lower digestive disorder about whether it’s “better” to have episodes of puking or of pooping.

      Anyway, I can basically guarantee that no one is thinking about this as much as OP’s husband. In fact, I bet that if anyone is thinking about it at all, it’s because this reminded them of their OWN embarrassing incidents.

    3. LC*

      honestly more people have been there than your husband realizes

      I think this is so important and I really hope OP’s husband is able to read through all these comments from people who have either experienced this or have known someone to and not judged them a bit.

      My husband has shat himself a few times over the years, including once while working at a restaurant. He didn’t even tell me about that one for ages, he was so embarrassed. No one at his work treated him any differently after that. Any friends that know have either never brought it up or have made some very light jokes that he’s fully okay with, and they’d for sure stop if he weren’t. (And likely never would have said anything if they didn’t know him well enough to know he’d be fine with it.)

      Personally, if I saw this happen, or even heard about it later, my only thought would be “Omg that is so awful for that person! I can’t imagine how embarrassed they are, I’m going to make sure to treat them exactly the same, hopefully that will help them.”

  8. Ithappens*

    LW1 – another person here who has pooped her pants more than once at work. I bring extra pants just in case. I even threw one pair in the garbage because it was too gross to deal with. I bet most people know someone who has this as a medical issue.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I used to have a set of clothes to change into with me when I had my period. All it takes is having even a small problem once and people start considering extra clothes. I did not want to lose a day of work if possible. Having a change of clothes on hand is not that uncommon, especially if people live a bit far from their work place.

      1. Artemesia*

        Change of clothes and if it is a chronic thing consider appropriate undergarments. For women and periods or bladder issues there are excellent absorbent underwear that are sleek and attractive and protective.

        For everyone there are now well designed sleek disposable undergarments; many of them are almost like regular underpants and don’t show under clothing. If I had this happen recently it would comfort me to wear them for awhile.

        And of course always have a bag with extra pants and wipes at your desk. Sometimes being prepared just makes you more comfortable.

        And yeah EVERYONE has or knows someone who has had a similar incident.

        1. TheRain'sSmallHands*

          And if you don’t have a desk, a locker, in your car – or in this case since the manager has been supportive – in a corner of the manager’s office. Retail is harder to manage these with than some other professions – although it is mortifying to spring up and dash out of a fifteen person meeting – then return 20 minutes later in new clothes.

        2. Anonny NonErson*

          Double-recommending the new absorbant underwear for periods as a good solution.

          I don’t use them as primary product, but I do wear them as my back up – my periods have DRASTICALLY changed in my 40s and wow, does it feel like I’m back in middle school wondering WTF to do again.

          I take a spare pair with me in my purse in a ziplock – if my primary product fails (which happens, #allergiessneezesreleasethekraken) and the first pair are soiled, I clean myself up, change, and put the soiled pair in the bag for cleaning at home.

          I love them so much I bought my niece a set when she hit puberty. I was like GIRL THE WORLD HAS IMPROVED DRASTICALLY benefit from my past embarassment and trust me on these.

    2. Killer Queen*

      Yep, I have IBS and this happened to me at work (not to mention multiple other places). And guess what! One time I confided in my boss about it and it happened to her too! And she doesn’t even have a medical condition. It’s so incredibly common, no one thinks any less of Mr. OP! But I understand not wanting to go back; either way I hope all of these comments make him feel better because they are making me feel much better about my incident!

  9. Nose in a Rose*

    The response to letter #3 made me question something: my organization has a policy that only the Executive Director can give a reference and even then will only confirm basic employment info. I remember one case where a manager was repremanded for providing a reference for a past employee. Leadership has changed since that instance, but the basic policy remains in the handbook. Are policies like that common? Are they enforceable? As a manager I will probably be asked to provide a reference at some point, and I’d like to! Should I try to do so under the radar? Ask for permission? Say I can only provide a personal reference?

    1. learnedthehardway*

      If your employer has a policy against providing references or controlling who can give a reference, they’re being unreasonable and unfair to employees. Yes, I know some companies do this. And sure, there have been situations where companies have been sued because a manager provided a reference and the employee didn’t end up getting the job because of the reference. But there have also been situations where an employer refused to provide a reference as a matter of policy, and got sued and lost – because governments (and by extension, courts) don’t like it when people are deprived of employment opportunities and end up on social assistance. It’s anti-free-market tactics to prevent a person from obtaining a reference.

      In your case, I’d evaluate the personal risk, but would likely choose to provide a reference. A good reference is very unlikely to come back to bite you. In cases where you don’t feel like you can provide a good reference, then fall back on the company policy and refuse.

      1. LPUK*

        You should be able to get round it by providing a personal reference rather than a company one – I’ve worked for companies where they referred people asking for references to HR when only confirmed employment dates, but I’ve still been able to provide a personal reference – to be clear, it was still about their job performance, but I was speaking for me, not as a company representative

      2. MK*

        It’s highly unlikely that a company would be successfully sued for refusing to give references. There would need to be another factor in play, like a previous agreement that they would give a reference, or possibly a legal requirement to do so. I know of no jurisdiction where a worker has an actual right to references in general, only in some specific regulated industries.

      3. Ana Gram*

        I’m very curious about companies being successfully sued for refusing to provide references. Can you provide more info? I’d like to read more about this.

        1. BuildMeUp*

          Yeah, I did a quick google and found nothing supporting this… I’m not seeing anything about any laws requiring companies to confirm employment dates, except for government requests (child support, etc.). Possibly learnedthehardway is not in the US, or maybe the company involved was sued and decided to settle rather than go to court?

    2. TechWorker*

      My company (huge multi National) has a policy of only providing dates of employment. I have both bent the rules slightly to take a reference call (where I made it clear that I was not giving a reference on behalf of the company, plus I think they’d actually already offered the job so that was a weird case) and fallen back on the rule to avoid unreasonable checks. (Recently, a 20 question email asking about things including whether they had a lot of sickness/absence – which I didn’t know was even legal – for someone who I worked with briefly 8 years ago when they were a brand new graduate). Luckily the person applying for the job was very happy for me to refuse to answer the questions :) (think it was through a 3rd party referencing company, that sort of reference is not common in our industry).

    3. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

      Relatively common, yes. Most municipalities I worked for had a similar policy, though it was usually the HR department who were allowed to do it.

      Also definitely how it worked in a few other fields before libraries.

    4. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      NAL, but my understanding is that these polices are rarely enforceable (at least in the US) and sort of rely on the fact that employees don’t feel comfortable spending capital pushing back on the handbook. I think it’s pretty common for references to be given ‘under the table’ as it were.

      That said, I would be interested to hear from people who knew more about the legality of it.

      1. MK*

        Depends what you mean “enforceable”. The company can’t stop you giving a reference, but, if you do it and they find out, they can certainly discipline you for it.

    5. Just delurking to say...*

      CurrentJob has a policy that only the owners can give references. I can see the logic behind it – it’s to stop terminated employees getting flattering references from their work friends – but as this is my first professional job I do wonder how I’d get references to leave.

      1. ecnaseener*

        I don’t see that logic actually. What do the owners care if a former employee gets an overly flattering reference? Especially from someone who didn’t even manage the employee.

        1. Jora Malli*

          I agree. What if the terminated employee has skills that would make them good at a different kind of job, and the people most likely to be aware of those skills are their former coworkers, not their former company owners?

          I think anti-reference policies, or policies that limit who you’re able to use as a reference, are terrible, and I don’t think there’s a version of that policy that will change my mind.

      2. Rolly*

        “it’s to stop terminated employees getting flattering references from their work friends”

        Is this why they say they do it? It’s not that plausible. More likely they are unrealistically worried about blowback from negative reviews, or are just controlling in general.

      3. Smithy*

        I think those policies end up ultimately being reactionary – even if it is due to a warranted case – but often only end up hurting those its not intended to address.

        For example, someone gets fired for financial mismanagement/misdeeds or harassment and then receives recommendations from colleagues who either didn’t know or were their friends. And certainly for a small industry, I can see owners feeling more sensitive or engaged in preserving the reputation on their company/employees. However, very often someone fired/let go under those circumstances will often still find friends willing to skirt those policies.

        And then it ends up hurting people who’s work the owners don’t necessarily know that well – especially when they’re not someone’s direct supervisor. So good employees who’s supervisors respect them get average to weak references from the owners and are denied more glowing/supportive references from their actual managers who are also following the rules.

      4. Antilles*

        I don’t see the logic there. Why? He no longer works for you and it is not your concern. What does it matter if one of your employees provides an overly flattering reference? Even if it flops in the next role, that’s not falling back on your CurrentJob; at most, the next company will look back at the individual employee who gave the reference (more likely: they won’t even remember that much).
        Also, it’s possible that the individual employees have different opinions than the company. My company is allowed to terminate my work friend. I am not required to agree that they made a good decision. Maybe I’m flat out wrong in my judgment, maybe there’s behind the scenes things I don’t know, or maybe they’re wrong. But you know what? They’re calling ME, so they get MY opinion.
        Also, just for your knowledge: The usual means of dealing with this sort of policy and/or companies like Nose in a Rose’s where they don’t provide references period is that employees keep in touch with other departed employees, then use them as references instead – ex-employees aren’t going to feel in any way bound by your current job’s policy.

      5. TheRain'sSmallHands*

        Every company I have worked for has had this policy. They’ve all been big companies. HR will give out dates of service and nothing else. However, there are always coworkers and managers who you have enough of a personal relationship with to give out a reference – just through their personal contact information.

    6. GlowCloud*

      I worked for an organisation like this. The policy was that HR could confirm your dates of employment and nothing else.

      I think it was mainly to remove managers from either the admin of providing references, or potential blowback from giving negative references. I wondered if this policy had been put in place in response to something specific, such as a bullying situation.

      Thing is, if I were on the new employer’s end, checking someone’s references, it would give me virtually nothing on which to base my hiring decision.
      I think employees could still ask their peers or Team Leaders for references, but if the new job asked specifically for performance-related feedback from their Manager, they were SOL.

      I think these policies harm employees by undermining their credibility, and making their work experience unnecessarily murky. I don’t see why, in a functional work environment, giving references should be like pulling teeth. Especially when I work in the type of industry where having someone be able to vouch for your work ethic is *everything*.

      1. Smithy*

        I allude to this above, but I think these systems often end up fostering inequities that they might be trying to avoid.

        In my first comment I reference unethical people let go for cause, but that aside – we always hear about supervisors in these organizations who still do give references via how they’re comfortable. And then I’m sure there are supervisors who don’t because they’re either rule followers, have a supervisor who they’re worried about, etc.

        So it puts employees in a situation where they have uneven access to genuine references regardless of their performance. And that access to references can be particularly driven by personal relationships with a supervisor which can often open the door to all sorts of other personal biases and belonging to similar groups.

      2. TootsNYC*

        I think the reason companies have this policy is because if you give a good reference to one person, and a slim one to another, you are indirectly implying there’s something wrong with the person you didn’t say much about.

        1. GlowCloud*

          Usually there’s no means of comparing the references given for two different people, as they are semi-confidential and tailored to the specific employee in the context of the role they are applying for… so I don’t see why that would be a problem.

    7. I should really pick a name*

      These policies are common.
      It’s also common for people at companies with these policies to totally ignore them.
      My old boss just made sure to give me his personal number and email to use for references.

    8. anonymous73*

      It’s fairly common but they can’t control what you do outside of work. Have them call you outside of work hours on your cell/home phone.

      1. TheRain'sSmallHands*

        I know that a few of them didn’t check references other than dates. They aren’t expecting that you will give them someone who will say “oh, Rain, no don’t hire them – they were horrible.”

    9. Firm Believer*

      I was going to mention this. These policies are normal – we have one. This person should make sure they aren’t violating company policy by doing this. I like the idea of serving as a personal reference.

    10. Massive Dynamic*

      I worked somewhere once that had a “confirm dates only” policy. I adhered to it while I worked there, but once I left, I let my direct reports at the time know that I was free to provide a real reference for them, should they ever need it.

    11. The OTHER Other*

      Most of my former employers would officially confirm job titles and dates of employment only, though honestly one had gone through so many mergers and acquisitions I doubt they would have accurate info. They had a complex automated system where you could authorize a new employer to get your last salary also. But there was no policy forbidding references by managers, or if there was no one paid any attention.

      If an employer refuses to provide references for former employees, that means they should not be able to access any while trying to hire. Goose, meet gander.

  10. learnedthehardway*

    OP#3 – You are really NOT in an impossible situation. You’re in a perfectly normal situation. Your coworker has decided it is time for them to move on in their career. Your employer does not have any right to stop them from doing so, or any right to know that they are planning on leaving unless / until your coworker tells them. In a perfect world, sure, everyone would be able to tell their manager/employer that they were thinking of taking another role, but we don’t live in a perfect world, and there are very good reasons to hold off informing your manager/employer until the new job is totally nailed down.

    Think about how you would feel if you had a great career opportunity that you wanted to take, and a coworker you trusted to be a reference – who knew you were a good employee and colleague – refused to provide one because of a misplaced sense of loyalty to the employer! You’d be very upset and rightly so!

    If you think that you work for an unreasonable employer who would take it personally or hold it against you that you gave a reference, a) tell your colleague that you’ll answer questions, but won’t submit a written document, b) simply don’t tell anyone you’ve given the reference and tell your colleague to keep your involvement out of it, and c) ask your colleague to ask the employer for a reference when she resigns, so the employer won’t realize that she had another reference from the company. Oh, and do a job hunt – an unreasonable employer like that doesn’t deserve to have people working for them.

  11. GammaGirl1908*

    I’m so confused as to what LW3 thinks is so wrong or awkward or impossible with this situation. People are allowed to interview for new jobs. It’s not wrong or disloyal or a betrayal; when you take a job, you aren’t obligated to stay there for life. When they do, the new places request references from colleagues, usually current or former coworkers or managers [you are here]. It’s expected not to inform your direct supervisor until you’re 100% sure you are leaving, which can’t happen until after the reference stage; you may or may not get offered that job, and you may or may not accept it. That means direct supervisors routinely stay in the dark until the person announces their impending departure; that’s not considered underhanded or sneaky or deceptive or a problem. References can come from current or former jobs, or sometimes even friends or acquaintances (or sometimes you don’t have to give them), so that doesn’t automatically point to any one person. Employing people means that sometimes they will move on, and sometimes you will have to hire new ones. This is a thing that happens literally every day in offices all around the world, and is generally how leaving a job is done. “So-and-so is interviewing for another job” is not a thing about which anyone needs to sound alarm bells; it’s a normal part of work life.

    Maybe LW3 has a particularly toxic workplace. But otherwise, where is the problem here?

    1. Allonge*

      Yes! LW3, let’s say your employer finds out that your colleague is job-seeking. What would they do with that information? In a reasonably healthy place, people wanting to leave is business as usual – we are sorry to see Tabitha go, but we will hire someone new.

      In any case – you don’t owe your employers the thruth, the full truth and nothing but the truth – not just in this, but in just about anything.

      1. GammaGirl1908*

        It also is very possible that this opportunity fell in Tabitha’s lap, and she wasn’t job-seeking at all. That’s happened to me; I’ve had people or recruiters contact me, or friends connect me with an opportunity, even though I wasn’t looking to leave my job. When that happens, it doesn’t hurt to meet with the other party to network and see what they have to say, even though you know it would take a whopper of an offer to get you to consider leaving.

        Moreover, saying nothing is not a lie in this case. To me, a lie by omission is when you say nothing, but you have information the other person very much needs to have NOW. This is when you say nothing, and the other person will get the information when they need it. Those are totally different things.

    2. Mangled metaphor*

      I think it might be a misunderstanding of the power dynamic? The owners have all the authority (I assume they do all the hiring and firing, and having support staff report to the professionals is just like having team leads – work delegation responsibility only). If the reference letter is addressed to “applicant’s boss”, LW3 might be thinking “well, that’s the owners; they need to know about this”.

      Sounds unhealthy to me, not necessarily toxic, but definitely green around the gills.

    3. Purpleplanner*

      I wonder if the OP is outside of the US. I’m in the UK, and I know from reading AAM that these kinds of references are normal in the US, but a potential employer in the UK asking for references from a coworker is unheard of here. As a manager, I have a clause in my contract stating that I cannot give references, even for my direct reports, and that they have to go via HR. That’s been pretty standard at every company I’ve worked for.

      1. Weegie*

        Not true! I’m in the UK also and have provided references for colleagues and had them provide references for me also. It’s highly dependent on your field and your organisation/type of organisation. With many employers requiring up to three (or more) references, it’s reasonable to ask colleagues to be among the referees. My organisation has a policy that only a direct line manager may provide an ‘official’ reference, but others can provide references as long as it’s made clear that they are doing so in a private capacity and not on behalf of the organisation. Other organisations will naturally have different policies. In the OP’s instance, they act in a management/supervisory role, so it’s entirely reasonable that they would be asked to provide a reference, as they are well placed to describe how their report performs their role.

        1. Purpleplanner*

          Must be industry dependent then! I’ve been in financial services for nearly 20 years and have never heard of a colleague giving a reference!

          1. Batgirl*

            I’ve done this for a colleague in the UK, in education. Because of safeguarding and criminal screening, you will be checked up on where you have spent your time from the age of 16 to present day – and it takes a while to do this! So it is done early, as part of the interviewing process. When you’ve worked for the same employer for eons, this means you will either have a huge hole in your timeline or you need a preemptive reference from your current manager, which isn’t really fair to ask for before you’ve been offered the job. A colleague vouching for your dates and general good character, in the meantime is a good workaround.

      2. Nene Poppy*

        I am in the UK and have given former colleagues/coworkers references and have had some provided for me, which was particularly helpful in on instance when my former manager was sacked for his ‘creative’ expenses claim forms. My former colleagues knew the standard of my work and professionalism much better than the ex-manager did.

        1. Jora Malli*

          I think that’s probably true in a lot of cases. I’ve had some jobs where I’ve worked closely with my manager, and other jobs where I’ve been in a different building entirely and met with my manager every other week. In those jobs, the coworkers I worked with on a daily basis would probably be able to give a much more realistic assessment of my work than my manager could. I think references from coworkers should be a more standard and accepted thing.

    4. Forrest*

      It makes sense to me, actually– I think people feel that References From Your Previous Employer are qualitatively different from a Personal Reference, and this one is blurring the boundaries. Is LW writing on behalf of herself or the company? Is she liable if she doesn’t mention something that is detailed in the employee’s case file? Or if she mentions something that isn’t formally documented? She’s in a position where she’s not sure whether she’s acting on behalf of the company or as a private individual, and that’s making her question the whole thing, and “well, if I AM acting on behalf of the company as this person’s manager, does that mean I have a duty to tell my managers what I’m doing?”

      LW, does this feel easier if you signal upfront to the company that you aren’t this person’s line manager, although you work with them and supervise some aspects of their work, and make it clear that your are writing this reference as a personal favour and not on behalf of the organisation? I think that might release you from the worry that you’re writing something that needs to have that official “from the company” imprimatur and make it much more straightforward.

      1. GammaGirl1908*

        Hmmm. That helps a bit. In that case, LW3 probably needs to cling tightly to the piece of information that (at least in the US) most people are — rightly — not comfortable asking their current manager for a reference. MOST references are given by colleagues, former managers, or current managers under special circumstances where they know the person is leaving (the office is closing, or the person is being laid off through no fault of their own, or it was a contract with an ending date). Sometimes companies force applicants to provide a reference from their current manager, but that’s not most of the time.

        Therefore, they are in a very normal position, as a colleague higher on the org chart / person who oversaw parts of the applicant’s work, and able to speak to their work and how it was to work with them. There’s just nothing awkward here.

    5. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

      My workplace (I’m in US) has a ‘not allowed to give references to anyone who has left within 1 year’ policy. Not sure if it’s actually enforceable but they did make it clear in the hiring documentation. So maybe LW3 doesn’t want to violate some sort of equivalent policy?

  12. The Original Stellaaaaa*

    Alison, respectfully, I thought we were done with the bathroom stuff? This isn’t going to go well.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      On this post, for once, it’s relevant. The OP’s husband is feeling humiliated about a medical condition; if hearing from other people who have had similar situations can help him feel less embarrassed, I’m all for it.

      1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        As someone who has these sorts of issues from time to time, I’m really glad to hear you’re all for discussing it, Alison.

        I honestly don’t understand why anyone would object. True, this is not the most delightful thing to talk about, but it’s a big deal to those of us who have to deal with these things, and it’s incredibly reassuring to read the comments that tell me that I’m not the only one with this kind of problem and that there are so many people who realize it’s a fact of life for some of us and are understanding about it.

        Thanks for supporting this discussion. Anyone who finds the subject distasteful doesn’t have to read the posts about it.

      2. MsSolo UK*

        I am a little concerned that the person who wrote in isn’t the one who’s very worried about how other people perceive him: “hey honey, I know you’re worried that colleagues and shoppers who saw you have an accident are judging you, so I told the whole internet about it to prove it’s not a big deal” feels like something that’s not going to make him feel less humiliated, even if the comments are full of people with similar experiences. Is there anything in the letter as a whole to suggest husband knew LW was writing in for advice and that it would be published?

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          It doesn’t sound like he knows OP is writing in, no. But IMO (and I expect people will disagree with me) OP does have standing to seek advice, because the husband is now unemployed and that also affects OP.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          There’s enough left out of the letter that very few people would actually be able to figure out who OP’s husband is.

          Additionally, with people chiming in “here’s my story” it’s very clear that this is a supportive activity. OP did not go on FB and say, “look what happened!”. OP went to a responsible columnist who monitors her site closely. That is, OP is aiming for actual help, not gossip or maligning. It matters who we ask.

      3. londonedit*

        The comments on the post you linked to for this one were honestly some of the best I’ve ever read on this site. People were sharing stories and commiserating and it was just lovely to see everyone coming together to reassure that OP that she was OK, it wasn’t a big deal and it happens to pretty much everyone at one time or another.

    2. Bazza7*

      We want this husband to go back to work, he did nothing wrong, just crapped myself, happens to the best of us.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Def. If hubby wants to and is able to work then he should work. Most importantly, OP’s husband should not lose his sense of self-worth or value because of this one event or potentially other events (worry about the future). Stuff comes out of us, that is part of how the human body functions. Sometimes it comes out of us with really bad timing. This happens to a lot of people. We are all still fellow human beings and we all are still of value.

    3. Unkempt Flatware*

      It’s kind of her and us to help here. And this represents our adult ability to be adult when we need to, especially for one another—just like when our adult colleagues experience GI distress publicly.

      But on the weekend thread I do appreciate not seeing questions like this that can be asked of Google, doctors, or friends.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Definitely. Also easier here to see the headline and decide this isn’t the post for you than to avoid stumbling on something in an open thread.

    4. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Really – bodies are bodies, and occasionally do gross or unpredictable things (especially when medical conditions get factored in). If we can help someone feel better about the fact they are human, why shouldn’t we try? Life is both messy and beautiful at the same time.

      Also, there is no rule on Alison’s site that I can find requiring you to read comments you don’t like/find gross. You can collapse replies and skip the comments if they bother you.

  13. Heidi*

    For Letter #4, am I interpreting this correctly? A person on a work visa can’t be unemployed for more than a week? That sounds like a bizarrely short period of time.

    1. MerBearStare*

      I read it as maybe they’re not starting the next job right away, since they have to wait for the new visa, so the time off in between jobs plus the extra week from leaving the current job early would make it too long of a break. But I know nothing about visas, so that’s just speculation on my part.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        That’s how I read it – the visa paperwork is not quite finished yet, and they’re adding another two weeks to the unemployed part. If they run out of time, they’d have to leave the country, wait until the visa is completed and then move back in again, which can cause problems with logistics. I did a quick check, and there’s an additional complication in that the I-94 expiry date take precedence over the grace period, so that might be an issue.

        I’d add “wait until the visa paperwork is finished” to the list of things that you need before giving notice (along with background checks, drug checks and the like). I will say that in my branch of academia, however, it’s really common to know someone is moving to a new job and is waiting for the paperwork to be completed before leaving. As long as the leave date doesn’t require a renewed contract, it’s rarely a problem.

    2. Casper Lives*

      That’s not quite it. IANYL: there’s a grace period H1b workers can stay in the U.S. after unemployment. While it’s up to 60 days at USCIS discretion, it’s really better to be less than 30 days between not working at first employer and new employer filing for your visa (with all the steps that requires).

      My understanding is the boss could be messing up coworker’s visa. Depending on how quickly the new company is filing the new petition, boss could put coworker over the 30 day mark. Probably all will be fine but boss is causing unnecessary stress to coworker for no gain.

      No gain besides making other workers wary of giving a 2 week notice, that is.

      1. Sea Anemone*

        The boss is not messing up coworker’s visa. Giving notice before visa paperwork has been processed is no different from giving notice before any other contingency has been resolved, whether that be a background check, confirmation of employment, contacting references, or whatever hoops a company has put in place before an offer is truly final. While this is unfortunate to the coworker, the takeaway should not be that the boss is in the wrong. The takeaway should be not to give notice until all contingencies are resolved.

        1. Oh Snap!*

          This was my takeaway. Once you give notice, you have to expect these things. Maybe the boss was being petty but maybe the employee had performance things going on and the boss is being completely reasonable. Hopefully LW has no idea because confidentiality. We just had someone quit who started doing underhanded things after giving notice. We almost had them leave early in their notice period. If we had, they definitely would have told all of their many work friends about how unfair it was and not mentioned that the reason it because they were doing bad things.

        2. zfd z*

          I was just going to say something like this. Why did he put in his notice over 30 days before the new start date? and when not all the “T”s were crossed and the “I”s dotted? I mean, I also think the boss is being petty based on the little info we have. Basically, both things are true.

    3. Kiwiapple*

      Some visas in some countries are specifically tied to a job role/title and employer. If they change employers or titles, they need to submit a variation of condition to be able to work in their new role (this is not in US).

      1. Wildcat*

        They also might be on a J1/2 where they can’t have any unemployment at all. I had a friend whose last day at previous work had to be their start date at new job because of she so much as has a day of unemployment it messes up their visa. It’s unreasonable but that’s the rule. I feel bad for LW’s coworker because visa stuff are so frustrating and dealing with people who don’t understand them makes things worse.

        1. PeanutButter*

          At my academic research institute there is a whole TEAM in HR that only deals with visa stuff. And has a call schedules so students, staff, and faculty can get ahold of someone 24/7/365 for immigration/visa related emergencies. It makes my head spin thinking about it.

    4. MusicWithRocksIn*

      Employers should be super careful about cutting a two weeks notice short without good reason, because when employees see that they learn they can’t rely on the company to pay them for those two weeks, so they may quit with short or no notice. I worked for a place that would walk people out when they quit, the day of, and people stopped giving any notice at all.

    5. AcademiaIsWeird*

      This rigidity and short time frame is common for many work or research exchange visas. For some types of visas you are literally transferring your current exchange record to the new employer and it’s considered a continuation of the original program and there can be no gaps at all! For other types there are short periods like 30ish days but they are not guaranteed and can be retroactively approved or denied at the discretion of USCIS. And finally, some post-student work visas only allow you to accrue a certain amount of unemployment days before you are in violation of your status. If this person was already close to their maximum unemployed days then a week more of unemployment could absolutely jeopardize their status.
      It’s a huge problem when employers do not consider the ramifications of terminating international employment early. It doesn’t just affect employees in the immediate but it can have longer 1-2 year ramifications. Some visas have built in 12 or 24 month bars against repeat participation. If their program is ended early and not transferred in time they can’t get a visa in that same category for 12 or 24 months. This boss is out of line for putting this person’s immigration status in jeopardy over 1 week after the employee gave a normal notice period!

    6. HiHello*

      It all depends on the visa and the work permit. For H1B visas, it is 60 days (calendar). But the transfer of the visa takes time. To be honest, no one should be putting in notice before the transfer is initiated cause it takes time. Sometime they tell you it will take X time but it does 5X. And people get out of status because of those USCIS delays. US immigration is awful and makes no sense. And I am saying this as someone who has dealt with it for a decade.

  14. Pretty Fly for a Wifi*

    LW#1 – I feel for your husband. Please pass on to him that an average worker here would have nothing but compassion for him and would also NEVER mention it to him or discuss it with coworkers. We all have bodies that can go rogue on us at times. My last boss was a total delight and burped long and loud 3x during my interview. He apologized after the first, but not overly so. It was such a good way to signal that “this is not in my control and its not a big deal). His digestion issues were known among staff but never discussed or used to demean him.

  15. Wendy*

    LW5: The hiring manager could just be giving a friendly heads-up. They could be accepting that their own hiring process takes forever / the job might up and vanish / there’s a strong internal candidate and they don’t want to lose you to another company. They could just be trying to be nice. And worst (best) case scenario: so you get a job offer from the other department. Then you can take it back to her and say “err, any chance you’ll be making a decision soon?” and maybe even get your pick. There’s really no downside to taking her up on her suggestion!

    1. JM in England*

      I was going to say something similar. The other job could prove to be a convenient back up plan should anything happen with the original job.

    2. Mockingjay*

      Current Job offered me two positions. After the panel interview for the job I applied for, I was asked to come back to discuss a second, similar position. They liked that my skills and experience fit several areas, as the company encourages cross-training. I chose the first role, but assist the second occasionally. The switch keeps work interesting and fresh.

      Being considered for a second role is a compliment to you!

    3. Lyon*

      I have been the hiring manager giving a candidate a heads up about another job. In my case it meant:

      “I really want you to come work here, in whatever role.”

      “This other role, which you maybe didn’t know about, looks like an even better fit for your skills.”

      “My colleagues are looking for someone just like you.”

      “I’d be happy to hire you, but I also have another candidate who is a great fit, and maybe here’s a way to hire you both.”

      It was NOT a trap. The candidate applied to both jobs. The other team and I discussed it and they ended up making an offer, while i made an offer to another strong candidate. We decided together who to offer to based on whose skills seemed to fit which role best, while trying to make sure the candidate we both really liked got an offer from at least one of us.

    4. Artemesia*

      This is a good point. Sometimes, people cannot tell you the truth about a situation but give a broad hint. The truth might be ‘this job you applied for is already promised to someone and we are going through the motions — but this one over here is available.’ or ‘you aren’t quite as strong as our first choice, but this one over here is a good bet’. or ‘I hear they are pulling funding for this one, but this one over here is going to go the distance.’ People cannot always be frank, so taking the hint is an art. I have missed this several times in my career until I figured it out. I should have read tea leaves on a job I took and then disappeared in a merger — but I didn’t get the hints that things were not well. I asked the right questions but they couldn’t give truthful answers so I should have been more sensitive to nuance.

    5. Persephone*

      I literally just had this happen – a friend suggested me for X Role in New Company. I came in for an interview with the hiring manager and Head Boss, who interviewed me and then said in a follow up, “with your skillset, you’re really better for Y Role that is coming up later.” I spent months communicating with hiring manager about when they’d be hiring for Y Role – they hired someone for X Role in the interim – and then had me meet with hiring manager again and Direct Boss, who then hired me for Y Role!

      So I would definitely follow up and apply for that other role. It very well may mean they like you and think you’d be great in the company, but want to use your skill set in a different way.

    6. A Feast of Fools*

      There’s a lot of cross-pollination in my company between departments. We want good talent in, say, all of the FP&A areas because the person who is doing LIFO calculations and E&O accruals this year could very well be in Business Compliance or Corporate Audit next year.

      So if a similar co-department has an opening at the same time we do, and we think a candidate is a good fit for either department, we’ll tip them off to the other opening. If the other department moves faster and hires them first, the company as a whole still wins. And we’ll just poach the person from that department in a year or two anyway. :-)

    7. The Rafters*

      LW 5: They must think highly enough of you as a candidate that they would love to see you working for their organization, even if it’s not in the particular role for which you applied. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have given you a heads up about other positions.

    8. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

      My husband got a job this way – he went in to interview for job X and in the middle of that interview they set up a different interview for job Y the next day. Job Y had just been vacated and they hadn’t posted it on the website yet but felt he was a strong match for it. He accepted an offer for Job Y like a day later and has been there happily for 5 years. His team was really excited about his skills because he was such a strong fit, and honestly job X has a very difficult manager and he wouldn’t have been happy on that team long. It definitely wasn’t a trap!

    9. NotATrapOP5*

      OP5 here: Quite right and well reasoned. I’ve never had this situation happen before, and my initial reaction was “Oh, that’s nice!” followed by “wait…what does this MEAN?!”. But I did end up applying to the second position and had interviews for both roles earlier this week. Thus far, Role 1 still seems the best bet, but Role 2 has its own perks. Fingers crossed!

      The reason I went to subterfuge is that several roles I’ve applied to recently have been a bit on the deceptive side. I.e. “this position is full time and permanent” in the job description suddenly switching to “actually, it’s a 6 month contract but we hope to make it full time before the contract ends…” It’s put me a bit on edge for any surprises, good or ill.

      1. JM in England*

        I understand your caution, OP. Was once put forward for a job by a recruiter and told it was permanent. During the interview, found out that it was a 9 month maternity cover contract! After that my guard was always up during job searches…

  16. SighMeToo*

    LW#1 I totally feel for your husband and I promise he is thinking about it more than anyone else. I, too, have had to throw (my favorite!) pants away because of an urgent IBS bathroom problem. I love that his manager is approaching this from a caring place.

    1. Sean*

      Exactly. The manager at any new place of employment might not be as understanding as the manager he has right now.

  17. Leenie*

    I feel terrible for LW’s husband, but I also hope he realizes that his boss clearly values him and thinks highly of him. Delaying the posting for a week speaks volumes about how much they’d like him to stay.

  18. Marion Ravenwood*

    OP #1 – I have IBS, which also triggers those similar ‘need to go NOWNOWNOW’ feelings. A few months back, I had a really bad flare up and was on a video call with my manager when I, um, lost it (and didn’t make it to my own bathroom in time). Manager was great about it – she asked if I was OK, rescheduled the call for another day so I could sort myself out and sent me a nice email later to check if I was all right or needed any time off etc – and we haven’t spoken about it since, but I was so mortified at the time.

    So I completely understand how your husband feels, but he is very much not alone in this! As others have said he may feel better if he can go back to work with some sort of clean up kit on hand, but the overwhelming majority of people will be sympathetic to him (and most likely no-one will ever mention it).

  19. Informal Educator*

    The way I’m reading it, LW 2 and Susan have different bosses. Would that change the advice at all? I can see how LW would be more concerned about this becoming “a thing” if the chain is: LW talks to LW’s boss, then LW’s boss has to talk to Susan’s boss, who then has to talk to Susan. Does LW go straight to Susan’s boss?

    1. Myrin*

      Yeah, OP speaks of “her [= Susan’s] manager”, meaning they almost certainly have different managers, so I wondered the same thing as you.

    2. TechWorker*

      It shouldn’t make it any more of a thing. LW2s boss can always give LW2 advice on how to push back (or borrowed authority ‘my manager says I shouldn’t spend time training you on this, you should use the official training’) if they think it’s not worth raising with Susan’s manager.

    3. Ozzac*

      If the request is done with email a response with both bosses in cc could be enough to shut down everything.

    4. EvilQueenRegina*

      I’m actually in a similar situation right now and in my case, yes I do have a different manager from the people in question, and it’s been my own manager I’ve talked to about it. I was temporarily covering the finance for one particular team while new people “Xander and Willow” were trained up to take it over – this was supposed to have happened before the end of the old UK financial year at the end of March, but “Buffy” from their team, who had been going to do it, then went off sick and it hasn’t happened.

      At the moment, there’s a bit of a standoff where the other team are asking if I can hold it for longer, and do the training myself, but there are reasons why this isn’t really going to work (short version: there are several things that aren’t straightforward and I haven’t properly been shown myself so I wouldn’t feel confident training others, plus absence within my own team has meant I haven’t really got the capacity to keep it on. My own manager has my back, is aware of these reasons and understands them.) Meanwhile it builds up, although not to quite the same level of chaos it was when I took it on in the first place (too long a story).

      There is official training available from “Giles” in another department, which they should really be doing, but the team hadn’t tried to organise this, so it got to the point where my own manager was trying to arrange it for them. The last thing said was that Willow couldn’t make the date Giles offered so it was left for her to come up with an alternative. I’m watching this space to see if they actually do it.

    5. anonymous73*

      But it doesn’t matter. Jane is refusing to train on the new system and disrupting OP by asking her questions all the time which could be resolved by taking the training. Jane is the one making it a thing by refusing to do her job.

    6. Jora Malli*

      I would say go to your own boss first. That person might not have any control in how Susan does her work, but they do have control over how OP does theirs. If OP is able to say “Sorry, Susan. Lucy told me she doesn’t want me spending my time teaching people the new system anymore. You’ll need to sign up for the official training” that might get through to Susan in a way their previous conversations haven’t.

      And if OP’s boss has a working relationship with Susan’s boss, she can reach out and let that person know about the training gap too.

    7. ferrina*

      LW can go to her own boss to get back up and/or Official Permission to say no (if that’s in line with the organization’s culture). I’ve done this with my boss before- “Hey, Delia wants me do a full training on Software. I’ve given her some help, but it’s eating into my time on other projects and she should really be reaching out to Other Department that does the trainings. I’m going to start telling her that I’m not able to assist her further. Just wanted to give you a head’s up in case it gets back to you.”

      Another way to do this: “Boss, can I use you as a shield? Can I tell Susan that you’ve told me that I need to focus more on Project X and I won’t have time to assist her?” (Depending on your boss and your organization’s hierarchy)

  20. MistOrMister*

    OP1….I certainly understand how your husband can feel mortified by what happened, but really, no one is holding it against him. And this is not the sort of things people are generally going to spread around the workplace. I can’t tell from the letter if it was immediately apparent to the coworkers what had happened, but if it wasn’t obvious, it is possible that only the husband and his manager ever know what happened. But even if others do know, this is not the type of thing most people would even talk about with others. If someone deliberately dropped trou and pooper in the middle of the floor while making eye contact with people, yes, there will be talk. Someone trying to get to the restroom and having an emergency and not making it…..people are not going to be disgusted by that. That is a sort of nightmare that no one wants to experience and pretty much everyone’s reaction is going to be empathetic. I would absolutely not think a coworker was disgusting if I witnessed this.

    I don’t have an intestinal disorder, but I’ve pooed my pants accidentally before during a bout of stomach upset. Same thing has happened to a couple other people I know. I would not be surprised if it’s happened to a LOT of people.

  21. LifeBeforeCorona*

    LW1 Whether or not you choose to return to your workplace, my suggestion is adult diapers. A friend had to use them after surgery. They are discreet and come in different sizes and styles. No one knows that you are wearing them and the peace of mind they bring is worthwhile. I had to fly last summer and with extra travel delays because of the pandemic, I used them. The moisture is wicked away from your body and there is no discernible odour.

    1. Good idea*

      This is a great suggestion, especially with the bathroom at his work being so far away.

  22. Mangled metaphor*

    Trivia regarding the caveat for LW4. In the UK (at least, and possibly elsewhere) it’s known as “gardening leave”. It’s almost exactly as it sounds – you are paid to go and tend your garden.

    Often industry specific, but can also be role specific – senior sales staff from many industries can be put on up to three months gardening leave so they don’t have the opportunity to take warm leads with them (might not be able stop them reaching out in their new roles, short of non-compete clauses in contracts, but after three months, the leads have usually gone a bit tepid).

    Minor additional point, in the UK you may be asked not to work your notice period, but also not put on gardening leave either. Because of how UK employment contracts work, however, you may instead get a PILON – payment in lieu of notice. This usually means bad blood between employee and employer – it’s not a firing, because there needs to be grounds for that, but it’s the next closest thing.

    1. Honoria, Dowager Duchess of Denver*

      I believe if you’re on gardening leave, you might not have this immigration issue as you’re still technically employed by the company for those months, you just are asked not to come in.

      Not 100% as sadly no company had ever felt the urge to offer it to me – have had to work out 2 months notice before now which is just…. Awkward.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Am in UK, been on gardening leave (“Keymaster has a 2 month notice period and administrator access to the systems? Let her sit at home and play dragon age”) and can confirm that you are absolutely an employee during that time. You’re paid, you have your benefits, you pay your taxes, you’re just not allowed to show up.

        (Happens a LOT in IT as well as people working on visas)

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          Not always just “not allowed to show up” either, as there are often clauses with this that require the person to be still available for work if the company were to call them in (so couldn’t overlap another job with it, etc). I’ve known a lot of cases of people on gardening leave, but not actually seen that clause invoked that I know of.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            Accurate point that I’d forgotten! It is true that they left me with my blackberry for the two months so if something that desperately needed my help (and wasn’t covered in the tome of handover documentation I’d written) they could get in touch with me and I’d be expected to stop fighting darkspawn for a bit.

            The o ly call I got though was before my last day to confirm that I would be in the office to hand back said blackberry.

  23. Bazza7*

    #1. We want your husband to go back to work, he didn’t do anything wrong. Being practical, keep a pair of spare knickers, trousers, and wipes, in a ziplock bag in his backpack. Just to have a backup, just in case.

    1. restingbutchface*

      Just wanted to let you know, in case you weren’t aware, but knickers are most usually a feminine name for underwear. Unless I missed something vital in the OP, her husband really doesn’t want to be packing knickers in his bag. Not trying to be That Guy, just wanted to flag it in case you accidentally get the side eye from UK people in the future without meaning to.

      1. littlehope (formerly Blue, there were two of us)*

        FWIW, it is less usual but not unheard of to refer to men’s underwear as knickers in the UK! Usually in a slightly jokey way, but it doesn’t have the implications that referring to a guy’s ‘panties’, frex, would have in the US.

      2. Rebecca*

        My mum is Irish and all the underwear in our house was knickers, not just the lady ones.

      3. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        UK although it differs wildly as to which part of the UK as to the mileage but knickers (or ‘undercrackers’) is commonly used in my region – south west England- to refer to any kind of underpants. I’m 80% sure my Irish relations use the word the same way.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yeah I use knickers as a general word for all types of underpants. I’m from the north of England and live in London.

      4. Dennis Feinstein*

        It’s just another word for undies/underpants as in “don’t get your knickers in a twist”. (Americans might say, “Don’t get your panties in a wad.”)

        1. Emilu*

          I’m also Australian and calling mens’ undergarments “knickers” would earn you serious side-eye at the very least. I guess it’s very dependent on location.

  24. restingbutchface*

    I’m going to go against the grain here re OP1. If I was her husband, I would go and never look back. Yes, people *should* be sympathetic and nice and perhaps I’ve been very unlucky with coworkers in the past but not only would this be humiliating in the moment, it wouldn’t be forgotten, especially on a sales floor.

    I think perhaps instead of telling him it’s fine and everyone will understand, just listen to how he feels. Perhaps he could negotiate a leave of absence to give him space to process his emotions and also give his coworkers time to move on to the next drama. I feel terrible for him, he shouldn’t have to leave his job over this *and yet* I totally empathise with his reaction.

    1. londonedit*

      Thing is, though, presumably he’s at risk of this sort of thing happening every now and then (I have family members with bowel conditions; I know how difficult it can be!) and he can’t just quit his job every time he has an accident. I agree with the person just above who suggested he packs a spare set of underwear, trousers and wipes to keep at work for emergencies – then he could leg it to the loo as discreetly as possible and clean himself up. Of course it’s mortifying but I think we’ve all been there in some fashion, whether it’s getting caught out by your period or having to suddenly dash to the loo because your stomach isn’t playing ball. We’re all human and these things happen – he can take steps to mitigate the after-effects and make sure he can get himself sorted if it happens again, but quitting his job isn’t going to be a long-term solution.

      1. Ceiswyn*

        This; I was surprised nobody else had pointed it out.

        If you have a digestive disorder, embarrassing accidents are going to happen occasionally. OP’s husband can’t quit without notice every time that happens; if nothing else, doing so repeatedly will tank his career.

        Yes, he clearly needs to do some processing, and maybe he needs time to do so, especially if his disorder is arelatively recent thing and he’s still coming to terms with all the emotional fallout from having a chronic condition.

        But ultimately, what he needs to do is find a way to cope with undoing his resignation and going back to his job. Both for his professional future and for his own emotional health. He can’t outrun his own digestive issues.

      2. doreen*

        There’s a good chance that it will happen again and possibly he will be at work when it happens again, and he can’t deal with it long-term by quitting his job on the spot when it happens. And I agree that he should prepare in advance for next time , whether that just means he keeps extra clothes at work or whether he starts using adult diapers.

        But just because he can and should have a plan that doesn’t involve quitting on the spot if it happens again doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy for him to return to this job. He may have to, if it will be difficult to find another , and the hardest part will probably be that first day back – but I wouldn’t go back unless I absolutely had to.

    2. Rolly*

      “I think perhaps instead of telling him it’s fine and everyone will understand, just listen to how he feels. ”

      I don’t agree he should leave, but this is an excellent point. Saying it’ s not disgusting is not that plausible – it is viscerally disgusting, at least to some people.

      Yes we should have sympathy for the husband. Yes, we know rationally it’s not his fault. But it actually is disgusting, so saying it is not is not that plausible. What is plausible is saying something like “It’s a one-off thing! People know it’s not your fault! You’re doing a good job and they want you to stay.” All true and believable.

      1. restingbutchface*

        I’m reading comments saying its not disgusting, it’s no big deal, it happens all the time and it’s making *me* feel like I’m crazy so I can only imagine how he would feel. Totally agree – say things that are true, like your suggested comments. Pretending this isn’t a big deal for him is not the kind thing to do. He isn’t overreacting to a minor error, his reaction of humiliation and horror is utterly appropriate. Poor guy.

        1. Sylvan*


          I think some comments are addressing this as a hypothetical in a perfect world, rather than a real thing that embarrassed the heck out of somebody in a real place.

          I hope he isn’t talked into going back to that job after feeling humiliated. At the same time, if he changes his mind and decides to return, I think people might be kinder about it than he expects. His coworkers probably just hope he’s okay.

      2. Casper Lives*

        I agree with this comment. I’m not aware of this happening to anyone at my workplace. (Not saying it hasn’t, I just haven’t heard it) I wouldn’t mention it again if it did and would cover for the person. Most of my coworkers are kind, and my boss is a good enough boss that gossips would be shut down.

        That said, it is embarrassing and humiliating. LW’s husband’s feelings should be validated. I hope LW is letting him express himself.

      3. marvin*

        I think the distinction is that the situation may be gross but that doesn’t mean coworkers will think the husband himself is gross. I have a phobia of throwing up and would absolutely be disturbed if one of my coworkers threw up near me but it wouldn’t change my opinion of them.

    3. Not A Manager*

      I agree with the spirit of this comment. In a perfect world, everyone would understand and no one would mention it, but we live in an imperfect world. I think it’s more realistic and ultimately more helpful for the husband to strategize two things going forward: (1) how to mitigate the effects if this should happen again (adult undergarments, change of clothes, etc.) and (2) how to address and tolerate it if other people do notice something amiss and if they should have an unkind response.

      An unkind response is a worst-case scenario, but I’m a big believer in having some kind of actual plan for the worst case, so that you know you can tolerate it and it’s not a big disaster just making you anxious all the time. Quitting might be a part of that worst-case scenario plan, but it shouldn’t be a preemptive solution.

    4. Smithy*

      While I respect the sentiment of this post and do think that this sentiment is why he shouldn’t necessarily have been forced to go back to work immediately…..I can’t entirely cosign this stance.

      I’m a woman (period stuff) and IBS haver (the other stuff), but my most embarrassing workplace event involves neither. It’s a touch too specific to list here, but it was when I was a few months into a new job and related to being clumsy, in front of my employer’s CEO and an external VIP. And right before a meeting my job required me to have annually with the CEO and that specific VIP.

      While the CEO never forgot, and even as some in my 30’s – it was a growth moment for living with that embarrassing moment. Accidents do happen. People don’t forget big ones. But they can also still see you as a professional and competent contributor. There’s no need to be overly self-deprecating or self-flagellating, but there’s also no running away from it. Because I certainly still remember it and still feel some embarrassment.

      There was a another quitting letter where the colleague had accidentally sent over some sexual/pornographic content that was very niche and embarrassing if I remember? And in that case, leaving and never coming back can also be viewed as situation the person could likely strongly prevent from ever happening again. But in my case (being clumsy) or the OP’s spouse (GI) – neither are 100% things you can promise will truly never happen again.

      1. restingbutchface*

        Okay? I’m not sure what you’re not co-signing, as I was talking about what *I* would do. I stand by it, if I publicly soiled myself at the job I have now, I would leave. Immediately. Because my career there would be over. It isn’t right, but it’s realistic. Interesting that so many people would class that as running away, which is an interesting judgement. I’d be making the right decision for me and who knows, I might find a job in a workplace full of the people described in this thread.

        The OP’s husband knows his colleagues like I know mine. I’m not sure why so many people are invested in telling the OP that his husband is wrong and nobody will care because that’s wishful thinking. OP’s husband will do what’s right for him and I hope he never finds out that hundreds of strangers were discussing his most humiliating moment in the internet.

        1. restingbutchface*

          Also, why can’t he leave and then prepare better at his new workplace? I suspect he will do anything within his power to stop it happening again, if he can do that somewhere else, where nobody knows him as the guy who soiled himself on the sales floor.

          1. pancakes*

            That’s the thing, though – if it does happen again in a new workplace, that’s two sets of people who know him as the guy who soiled himself on the sales floor. Rather than just the one. And I don’t think it happened this time due to failure to try to stop it. It’s not as if the guy was ambivalent about it. He has a condition. I think it’s more sensible to not flee.

            1. Smithy*

              This is more where it’s coming from.

              For those kinds of GI situations, saying you’re never going to soil yourself again is a little like a woman saying she’s *never* going to have a period related accident again. I know I certainly try to be prepared for that not to happen, but it’s only going to help so much. For all the teenage girls who have an embarrassing period moment at school and never want to go back because of the teasing – they’re not wrong that there will be teasing. But it’s also a situation they can only ensure will never happen again so much.

              If the husband had gone back to work and the situation been untenable, then that’s a sign of other workplace issues that warrant leaving the job. But there’s also just SO much shame around the loss of bodily functions that protective undergarments are often not worn because of being equated as equally shameful. So this notion that someone is just going to ensure it’ll never happen again isn’t a promise they can really make and is just setting up the next situation of quitting without notice.

    5. North Wind*

      Along these lines, I’m also thinking, the husband knows his office and maybe his coworkers *are* juvenile and horrible, despite his manager being supportive. Moving on might not be that much of an overreaction, but I am glad for everyone to share their stories and support so folks know that decent and reasonable folks will handle this appropriately.

    6. Person from the Resume*

      I agree with restingbutchface in that nearly all commenters are very unrealistically saying everyone will understand and no one will mention it again. That’s unrealistic; this blog gets lots of letter about mean or just dumb/insensative employees who would mention it. I do believe that they’re in the minority, but there’s a chance it’ll happen. Especially I’m thinking that big box stores often employee teenagers and younger adults who might not be emotionally mature enough to empathize and realise the right solution is to act like it never happened.

      OTOH I absoultely agree that there’s a likelihood that this will happen in the future and the LW’s husband can’t quite every job or avoid every place a mortifying event happens. As the spouse she does get to have an opinion about her husband’s employment or lack thereof especially if finding a new job is hard in their area.

      In short, I support the LW to encouraging her husband to work through it enough to continue at his job. But I also support giving him the week or whatever time his boss allows him to work through it and emotionaly prepare to return to work after the incident.

    7. Important Moi*

      I think that leaving this job is not necessarily wrong. LW’s husband can be more brave at the next job. I am sympathetic to LW’s concern about their spouses employment options.

      People have long memories. In moments of inattentional meanness or lacking in self-awareness, people can blurt things out that other folks would like to forget. (I have stories.) It is ok to that into consideration when deciding what you want to do next.

      (While I was having trouble posting, Person from the Resume, better articulated what I was thinking.

    8. Critical Rolls*

      I agree with the replies that this may happen again, and considering what LW said about job availability, quitting may not be financially wise. I don’t know about the coworkers, but he seems to have a supportive boss, and that’s not at all guaranteed at the next job. He is absolutely entitled to his feelings, and I would have the same impulse, but for most people quitting a job with nothing lined up and minimal options is not a good decision.

    9. Lady Blerd*

      I hear what you’re saying but I don’t see what is wrong with giving OP’s husband some perspective on what happened. We can do both, acknowledge the husband’s feelings all the while suggesting that maybe people won’t hold it against him unless he works for jerks. OP has also said that finding work in the area isn’t easy so he may have to decide if he’s willing to pay the price of not having any income in order to save face.

  25. Rebecca*

    LW1, not only did I throw up in front of a student and my boss, I was in no condition to drive myself home after and had to stay and wait for my husband to come get me.

    I was exposed to gastro in a classroom in the morning and it hit me so fast that by afternoon I was in a classroom with my boss and a high school student and didn’t make it to the bathroom and threw up in a garbage can with them both watching and smelling.

    Then the fever and shakes and diahrea came, and I was in the bathroom with my boss (she sent the kid away) outside asking if it was a one off or if I was ill. She had to help me down to the lobby of this giant high school, and then she had to leave while I waited for him so she could teach my class for me. I sat to wait for my husband, but I was so ill that I sort of passed out? And the office people came to tell me I couldn’t nap in the lobby, realized how sick I was, and had to help me into the nurse’s office to lie down. One of them kept watch out the window for my husband, who took an hour to get there because there was a protest in town on the highway. I threw up in a bucket twice.

    Even the high school student didn’t make a thing of it, and it didn’t become gossip among the students (which I was terrified of). My boss quietly taught my class, and I took a long weekend to recover. The only thing anybody ever said to me was a call from HR, calling to tell me to take an extra day and to not worry about getting a doctor’s note.

    1. londonedit*

      Yep, when these things happen there isn’t much you can do! The vast majority of people are going to be sympathetic. I once went on a weekend away with 10 or 12 friends to celebrate some big birthdays, and unbeknownst to us some sort of norovirus or whatever was evidently circulating. A couple of people started feeling off on the Sunday morning and left early, then the messages started coming in with harrowing accounts of people having to stop their cars 10 times on the way home, etc…! I just about made it back before it hit me, but let me tell you it was unwise of me to have misinterpreted the weird gripings of my stomach as hunger and stopped off to buy a sandwich and crisps at the station…! I was very lucky, I could easily have had an absolutely terrible time of it on the train back. It swept through the entire party by the time Sunday was over, and I was horrifically ill for about two days.

      1. Rolly*

        I have to add that puking is not generally as bad a pooping pants. A huge proportion of adults have thrown up. Much much fewer have defecated out of control. And the latter is associated in part with babies.

        Not the same in terms of levels of mortification if you *heard* about someone doing it at work (I’m not arguing which output is more nasty – just the view other take of it).

        Heck people getting drunk together and barfing might even be considered a bonding experience among some groups…… Not pooping.

        1. Rebecca*

          No, it’s not as bad, but it’s what I’ve got for work related stuff and the purpose is to help the OP’s husband feel less embarassed and alone about a humiliating experience. It isn’t a competition.

  26. littlehope (formerly Blue, there were two of us)*

    I fully understand the urge to burn the scene of the crime to the ground and never look back, poor guy.
    But yeah, all other considerations aside it sounds like this is something he’s going to have to deal with in the future, and he can’t grow a beard and start a new life in Bolivia every time.
    I mean, if he has reason to believe that his coworkers might be dicks about it, that’s different, and in that case he should look for a nicer workplace anyway. But it doesn’t sound like that’s the case, and reasonable people will usually take your cues on how to handle something like this. It’s hard to do, but if you can project an aura of, ‘Welp, that was unfortunate, bodies, what can you do, moving on,’ most people will be sympathetic and normal about it.
    None of us are as fully the boss of our bodies as we like to think we are, and sometimes they just take charge. Most people understand that.
    This is getting into the realm of fanfiction, but…I know a few people who have occasional continence issues, and all of them carry an emergency kit and have a Plan. The fact that he doesn’t, coupled with his reaction, makes me wonder if he’s kind of been dealing with this through denial, and having that denial fail so publicly and upsettingly is traumatic in itself. There are organisations that provide information, support and counselling for people with bowel conditions and continence issues, if he could be persuaded to look into that, maybe it would be helpful.

    1. Iris Eyes*

      I think there is something to this, potty training trauma is real some parents really laid on the shame and the “big boys/girls are the bosses of their body” messaging.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I agree. My heart strongly goes out to him, but as others have said quitting every time this happens isn’t a sustainable solution. Whichever direction things go with this particular job, some support and logistical planning need to come into play here, which may include professional help of some kind.

  27. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    OP1: I’ve gone and had a think about this, and while I’ve done far, far worse in the office (not going into details but medical issue and really catastrophic) it’s engendered some very similar feelings in me to your husband. You just want to erase the whole memory and get as far away as possible. In my case I was calmed down by management and returned to work and really nobody mentioned it plus the upshot is a decade or so later I am incredibly hard to embarrass. The worst has happened and I lived through it.

    Ask him whether knowing of people in similar circumstances would help him or make him feel a bit better? I’d say before launching into the many, many tales of success here. If he says actually yeah, it would help to know he’s not alone or that it’s not often a shunning offense then by all means!

    If, however, he says no, his decision is final and it won’t help then I wouldn’t pass on any of this information. Sounds counterintuitive I know! You want to help, we all want to help! But if he’s really adamant then that’s that and it can do more harm than good to try and argue one’s spouse out of a professional or personal choice (married 18 years and I’m still learning this! I’m a professional problem solver…but need to not bring that home sometimes)

    Conclusion: I really do hope your husband is comforted at some point that a lot of us have done this kind of thing and it hasn’t ended our careers.

  28. me*


    Your boss is being extremely unfair to your coworker, especially during times of COVID. If your company regularly hires people who require a visa, they will get a bad reputation. Other people in a similar situation are going to start looking for a way out.

    International travel to and from certain parts of the world right now is difficult and expensive, which can make it really difficult for your coworker if they have to leave the US when their visa expires. They may or may not have a good route back to their home country or the ability to easily enter a third country while they wait for their visa to come through. They might need to get an additional visa for that third country while they wait for the new US visa. Once they enter their home country, they may be required to quarantine at a hotel at their own expense for 2-3 weeks.

    Yes, people who work internationally assume a certain level of risk and headache when it comes to visa paperwork and travel. However, an employer who takes the time to do the paperwork for international employees shouldn’t be so petty to add to these issues by refusing to abide by American business norms.

    I hope your coworker is able to talk to someone reasonable at your company who gets it and find better support.

    1. EPLawyer*

      Definitely coworker should go over boss’ head. Talk to HR. They might not be thrilled that Boss is forcing someone out early because she is personally hurt someone dared to leave.

    2. Smithy*

      100% – I had an nonprofit employer who treated someone on a visa particularly poorly (especially given the mission of the nonprofit) and, imo, hypocritically. While I didn’t love how they treated me, how they treated her put them in that category of horrifically unethical because of so many of the other implications as you mention.

      If this supervisor is truly at the top and how they want to treat international hires, best they simply stop doing so. However, if this is a larger company – their HR absolutely can not want this to be a reputation that builds around them.

  29. SomehowIManage*

    LW1. Most of the women I know have had an embarrassing period leak incident at some point in their lives. Mine happened while giving a presentation to the VP. It was mortifying. However, my only real option was to act like it never happened, and I recommend that to your husband.

    If he cannot get past it, does the store have another shift he can work or another branch? The manager transferring him might be easier than trying to get a new job.

    1. Pobody’s Nerfect*

      Will there ever, hopefully, be a day when period leaks and period cramps and anything else to do with periods are not embarrassing and mortifying, whether at work or anywhere else, because periods are and should just be a normal non-embarrassing thing for half the world population?

      1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        Considering how embarrassed we are about poop, which is a totally normal thing for 100% of the world’s population, I’d say never.

  30. Mannheim Steamroller*


    An essential part of any job is learning how to do the job. Meanwhile, Susan has chosen to lean on you instead of learning New System (i.e. you’re there to know and do the job for her) — and the time has long past for your boss to shut that down.

    Keep refusing to help her. Answer every question with “What did Jane say to do?” or “What page of the manual did you check?” If Susan asks her questions are in emails, then copy your boss on your replies. Ask your boss to manage this situation.

    1. Mockingjay*

      I re-read OP 2’s letter and this jumped out at me: “we’re the only two who manage payments.”

      Go straight to your manager. Susan is refusing to learn the system, which means you will effectively end up doing both yours and hers jobs. Susan’s noncompliance can mean late, incorrect, or missed payments if not processed in the new system. These are performance and cost issues and your manager needs to know NOW.

      Be firm and factual and describe the impact upon work. “Susan hasn’t learned the new system. She refuses to take the trainings, consult the trainer, or look at the wiki/training materials. She interrupts me multiple times a day asking how to do basic steps. Payroll was nearly late twice last month; I had to complete half of Susan’s work to get checks processed on time. I’m running late on my own work and don’t have time to check for errors as required before posting because of her interruptions.” Provide actionable details. It’s more work on top of what you are already doing, but managers need context and proof to best address employee problems like this.

      1. Mannheim Steamroller*

        Susan is probably counting on OP to do both jobs.

        By this point, OP should stick to her own tasks and let Susan fail.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Agree – OP needs to let Susan fall short all on her own. But OP please go to your manager and let them know what is going on – Susan is going to either figure it out or crash and burn, and you don’t want to be collateral damage if she goes down very spectacularly.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            Absolutely, or pointed to as the cause. “OP refused to help me” sounds silly and childish now, when other supports are available, but you don’t want that to circle back on you if the narrative shifts to blaming you for not running in with a fire extinguisher.

    2. Mary*

      If all else fails this seems like a great time to deploy a strategic delay in responding since the requests are coming through a messaging system. If OP puts off answering Susan she might be more inclined to check other resources.

  31. Tau*

    OP4 – Yeah, your boss is being absolutely scummy here and I feel for your coworker. Do you think it would be worth pointing out to your her that the coworker giving notice at all was a courtesy on his part, and treating him like this is a surefire way to make sure any employees who quit in the future will not follow suit?

    1. Beth*

      Absolutely. If the LW has standing, there could be something along the lines of “Boss, I heard that you’re shortening GreatEmployee’s notice period. Are you sure we want to do that? We could end up with future resignations only giving us a week or less notice, and that would cause real problems in the future. You know what people are like.” That last sentence is, of course, meaningless BS, but it’s the kind of meaningless BS that implies that the problem is with All Those Other People, not with the boss being a scumbag.

  32. Grant*

    ADA… LW1 should be able to use the customer bathroom. It won’t be close, but certainly easier to get to in time.

      1. Sean*

        Actually, mention of customer bathrooms reminds me. Google “can’t wait card” and see whether any of the cards are suitable. They are printed cards intended to permit IBD and IBS sufferers urgent priority access to bathroom facilities.

        Although it won’t be much use in LW1’s husband’s place of work, such a card might just make all the difference should a similar episode occur while out shopping. Obviously the cards don’t carry any legal force, and rely solely on an understanding shop owner. However, any shop owner who, when presented with a medical card, turns away a member of the public in distress is, well…..

    1. Dr.Vibrissae*

      Yes, this. I wonder if some of the reluctance to go back is also tied to facing the ongoing issue of the difficult to access facilities. It wasn’t clear from the letter if he was on his way to the facilities, but I wonder if he’s dealt with a series of close calls, and this is just a tipping point where the repeated fear came true.

    2. drpuma*

      Yes!! OP1, if your husband has been reluctant to ask about reasonable accommodations before, now is the time!!

  33. Irish Teacher.*

    LW 1: If I were one of your husband’s coworkers, honestly, my thoughts would be a combination of “poor guy” and “I’m glad that wasn’t me.” I’d probably just assume he’d had diarrhea, eaten something bad, had norovirus, something like that, which could happen to anybody. I definitely wouldn’t think he’d done anything wrong and probably wouldn’t even think he had an ongoing condition.

    LW 3: I think it is pretty normal for people to tell coworkers they are applying for jobs before they are ready to reveal it to their bosses. While nobody ever asked me for a reference, I was in a school once where another teacher of my subject told the rest of our department she was applying for a job closer to home, as it would affect our planning for the following year if she were not there to take on duties, etc, but asked us not to say anything as she did not want the principal to know unless she got an offer. I would hope most bosses would understand this.

    LW5: I once went for a job in a school and somehow in the interview, the principal and I got talking about my interest in autism and she told me they were planning on setting up an autism class later in the year and could she put my CV forward for a job working in that too. I didn’t think that meant she wasn’t considering me for the job I was applying for or that she was testing me to see if I was really interested in mainstream teaching, just that she thought I was a possibility for either role and possibly wasn’t sure how many teachers would be interested in working with kids with autism, as this was a new initiative for the school, so wanted to have some possibilities in mind.

    To me, it sounds like your interviewer is impressed with you and is thinking that if she gets another really good candidate, it would be great to be able to have you both in the company

  34. Falling Diphthong*

    #2, one of the rules I’ve found to hold true on this site is that people’s willingness to be inconvenienced by you is directly proportional to how hard you are trying not to inconvenience them.

    Your coworker has hit on inconveniencing those around her as a perpetual solution to not wanting any boring trainings, and I’d advise that you start being “really busy, you should ask Susan to give you that walkthrough the rest of us completed in November” in whatever version is professionally acceptable for your role.

    1. Velocipastor*

      Seconding this. Come up with a short simple response that directs her to the appropriate training and use the same script every. single. time. Even for easy-to-answer questions. Do not engage. It will feel incredibly rude, especially if you have to do it several times in short succession but just remember she is being far ruder. (I am dealing with something similar at work and this is the only thing I’ve landed on that has stopped me from shouting at my coworker)

    2. Mockingjay*

      We just had a letter at the end of March about another employee who refused to learn a new (to her) technology.

      All the job postings, interviews, and managers once hired that I’ve had over the years made it very clear that tech skills are required and if you don’t know a particular system, you are required to learn it.

      I will note that company culture plays a role in training success. The best projects or companies I’ve worked for mandated training, to ensure each person had the required skills to do their job. You might get to select a training week, but you had to pick one regardless and attend, no excuses. Managers checked to make sure everyone did. OP2, does your manager check on you and Susan? Is training on New System required? If so, I retract my advice above and suggest letting Susan fail. If Susan’s failure falls on your shoulders to correct, then my advice stands.

      1. Dinwar*

        Company culture DEFINTIELY plays into this.

        Sure, I have “mandatory” training, and if I screw up they’ll look at my training records and slap me on the wrist if I’m not compliant with the training schedule. On the flip side, in the past I’ve been 120-150% scheduled, or doing the work of six people (that’s not hyperbole, we counted, twice), or working 30 miles from the nearest internet connection from sunrise to sunset in August. Yeah, I’m super motivated to take on more crap under those conditions!! Especially since most of the training is built for jobs totally different from mine (I joined the company when Current Company bought Former Company in order to move into the market Former Company worked in), so I have to dig through a bunch of irrelevant stuff to get to the five minutes that are actually useful for my role.

        If the training is mandatory, managers need to provide sufficient time in the schedule to take it. Otherwise it’s not training in any real sense, it’s merely a way to punish folks for something outside their control. Even if it’s not used that way, think about the message it sends–“I’m going to tell you it’s required, but will do everything in my power to keep you from doing it” is not a stance that creates in employees a desire to do the thing.

  35. Tacos-R-Tasty*

    LW#1–have him talk to some runners!! I used to run and let me tell you‐‐when you have to go, you have to go! I have actually had oopsies myself a few times. It happens. Most people are like, “meh, it happens. We’ve all been there.”

    1. londonedit*

      Oh yeah, 100%. It’s not a decent long run unless you end up discussing bodily functions with your running buddies! I said this on the post Alison linked to, but years ago I ran a few marathons and when I was training for my first one, I was speaking to a more experienced marathon runner from my running club and the conversation came round to needing a wee during a long training run/on the race day itself. I was fairly shocked to hear her say that if she needs a wee, she just wees while running. But it makes total sense, and yes, I have done it myself. When you’re running, only a little bit is going to come out anyway, it’s better than trying to find a loo/a bush/wasting valuable race time queueing for a portaloo on the course, and if you’re in the middle of running a marathon then no one’s going to care what you look like, you’re going to be covered in sweat and you’re going to end up pretty disgusting by the end anyway. A little bit of wee is hardly going to matter. And of course we’ve all seen people who have had more unfortunate incidents mid-race. I’m lucky that nothing worse than a wee has happened to me during a run, but I know plenty of people who have had digestive issues – it’s just a thing that happens sometimes!

  36. AllenCloudCEO*

    Op4: In some states (MA) when an employee quits and gives a date, that is the employee’s end date. If the employer cuts the period short, it is no longer a resignation, the employee is considered fired and is eligible for unemployment unless the employee is paid through the effective date of their resignation.

    As for the visa, OP4 should check with an atttorney, the effective date of his resignation may be used for the visa even if the employer cuts the period short.

    1. Accountant*

      It also might be worth asking the attorney if this could constitute actionable discrimination – generally speaking, employers are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of legal status or type of work authorization, so the employer does not routinely cut notice periods short, thus certainly would look suspicious. If nothing else it might be enough of a wedge to get them to honor the original agreed upon quit date.

  37. anonymous73*

    #2 – I’ve been in your shoes when I was in support. We outsourced our help desk and I wrote a crap ton of KBAs for them to reference and the team leads (who had an extensive amount of training) ALWAYS came to me first before referencing the KBAs (because it was easier). My first response was always “what does the KBA say?” Eventually they only came to me for clarification questions or when a specific issue wasn’t documented. I understand wanting to be approachable, but you are not the trainer. Next time she comes to you, ask her “Have you taken the training?” If she says no, then tell her that’s her first step. And then tell your boss. If it becomes a thing, that’s not on you. She is affecting your productivity by constantly pinging you with questions that could be answered if she did her job and took the training.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I have a coworker who used to call me “their portable brain” and would go to trainings but never pay attention/take notes because I existed. They eventually got it all figured out, but it got really bumpy for them when I started turning them away non-stop with what do your notes say, I know that answer is in the training resources in the team drive, have you asked the leads? I was and still am just a coworker (but at a slightly higher pay grade due to seniority), and my job description doesn’t include training responsibilities.

      (And yes, my managers prioritize training, and set aside time for you to complete any mandatory trainings.)

      1. anonymous73*

        Yup. I have no problem helping someone but when you start to become their de facto google, especially when they have the resources at their fingertips, it becomes a problem and you’re not doing anyone any favors by continuing to answer them instead of pointing them in the direction to help themselves.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Same here – a quick answer, where would I find this resource, can you double check this – I don’t see XYZ code on the chart; those I will help with all day long. But I am not your substitute for google, and if you try to make me that I’m going to make sure the leads know so that they can fill in any training gaps (if that’s the problem).

  38. Pronouncable But Unspellable*

    LW5: I’ve interviewed people before where I know I want them in the company, but I also know there’s some fierce competition for the role we’re hiring for. In that case I have asked HR to reach out and suggest other roles to them because I am so invested in having them work with us, even if they don’t manage to clinch the role in my team. I think you should take this as a real reflection on how well the interviewer thinks of you, and (imo) probably a good indication of the type of organisation it is.

    1. calonkat*

      Agreed. I think the interviewer wants LW5 in the organization and isn’t worried about which position they are hired into. And that’s just awesome!

    2. NotATrapOP5*

      OP5 Here: It is definitely looking that way after a few weeks removed and moving forward for both roles. It just caught me completely off guard because it’s never happened to me or anyone in my network before. And my fear of it being a ‘trap’ was brought on by some deceptive practices during other recent applications.

      I’m happy to see that while it’s not common it’s not unheard of. That alone makes me feel like I was right to pursue their suggestion!

  39. NewBoss2016*

    OP1 – I too have digestive issues, and unfortunately do not make it to the bathroom in public at LEAST once or twice a year. Mine can be incredibly unpredictable. I have had to leave work several times because I didn’t make it to the restroom in time, and people definitely knew what had happened. There have been occasions of me running down the halls yeeting everyone and everything in my path. I’ve had to bolt from an important client dinner to sprint through the restaurant. There is no escaping from the fact that everyone at work has figured out I have a tendency to errupt spontaneously. And you know what – nobody cares or thinks any less of me! My coworkers go out of their way to make sure I am accommodated on outings or when we travel together. I am regarded as highly professional and competent, and never once have I been made fun of or even slightly made to feel like I am gross or less-than. I am sorry that your partner is experiencing this embarrassment. It sucks, and I used to be so embarrassed too. It is an unfortunate aspect of my life, but it does not affect how I am perceived professionally. I will acknowledge that I generally have worked with kind people, but even in the roughest of environments nobody has seemed to care other than to hope I feel better. Best of luck!

  40. irene adler*

    I’m someone who gets asked a lot of questions because it is easier than looking up the information themselves.
    Well, easier for them.
    It seems fair that I should receive a portion of their paycheck in exchange for answering their questions.

    (I’ve never put that into action. But I sure do think this when I’m asked all these questions.)

  41. Dinwar*

    LW#5: I saw someone in the company I work for do this in an interview. The person was a really good fit, and we really wanted them. The main person conducting the interview knew of open positions within the company, and recommended the candidate apply for it, including a statement that she would provide a letter of recommendation as well. I’ve also heard of it often enough that it’s, if not routine, certainly common enough that no one raises an eyebrow over it.

    It’s hard to get in the door of a company. Once you’re in, you can move around a lot more easily. That’s doubly true for my company. All our work is project-based, and it’s routine to reach out to other offices for staff for projects. If you’re a good fit for what I do and I can’t get you into my office, I’m going to try to get you into some nearby office and give you work anyway. This goes double for remote work, such as writing reports–I don’t care where you are, I care that you can write a report that the regulators don’t rip apart!

    Also, a healthy company will try to help each other out. If I think you’re a good fit, and I know of an opening somewhere else in the company, I can help you, help the company, and help myself a bit (by re-enforcing my network). It’s a win-win-win.

    If it were me, and there were no other red flags about the organization, I’d take it as a good sign. They want you. They’re just trying to figure out how to maximize their chances of getting you.

    1. NotATrapOP5*

      OP5 Here: I suppose it speaks to my lack of experience in the search process that this caught me so unawares. But it’s certainly a relief that other companies have this as a practice. Greatly appreciate your insights!

  42. Yup*

    OP#1-I had a co-worker at a previous job that this happened to, also due to a medical condition. Coworker also left immediately. I promise, absolutely no one thought our coworker was gross and no one said a word about it to anyone, ever. Even after he left, we just quietly went about our work like nothing happened because we all knew our coworker was dealing with a medical issue that could happen to anyone. Unless your husband works with a collection of sociopaths, they will not hold this against him and he will not be known for only this one thing.

  43. JelloStapler*

    LW 3- I have had colleagues be references when I did not want to tell my supervisor. Honestly, people leave all the time and it really is a private matter and the owner does not need to know any more than the typical two week. This is especially true if there is any hint that she will not be treated fairly as she leaves.

  44. Bird Lady*

    LW#1: As a manager, I’ve had employees have accidents from time to time. On a Black Friday overnight, one of my associates got food poisoning from Thanksgiving Dinner, and with constant requests from customers for help on her way to the staff bathroom, she didn’t make it in time. Everyone on staff immediately tried to help – from offering to buy her new pants, to driving her home, to getting her ginger ale from the food court. At no point did anyone indicate they were grossed out or made fun of her. Everyone was super worried. Nothing but concern and wanting to help.

  45. Gnome*


    I am sorry you and your husband are having to deal with this. I know you said there isn’t a lot in your area, but given the current norms, he might be able to find remote work like data entry or something. That might be better for him from a stress perspective.

  46. Mannheim Steamroller*

    OP #4…

    It’s more than likely that your boss (1) knows about your coworker’s visa status and (2) is trying to sabotage his new job.

  47. Just Me*

    LW 4 – Not sure if you’re in the US, but if so, it’s very likely that your coworker has an H1B visa, which means that his new job more or less needs to buy out his visa from the current company. It makes the job search process incredibly difficult, especially because people from the US generally don’t understand how the process works and can be very unsympathetic. The person’s whole life can be potentially upended if they switch jobs. Many people just don’t do it because it can be such a headache, so they end up stuck in miserable jobs for years. I would assume there may be similar factors at play if you’re not in the US, too.

  48. Fluffy Fish*

    Op 1 – Oh I am so sorry your husband is dealing with this.

    A helpful exercise in framing situations like this is to ask yourself (in this case your husband would ask himself) if the situation happened to someone else, what would your reaction be?

    I feel pretty comfortable stating I’m sure your husbands answer would be along the lines of concern, empathy, and hope that the person wouldn’t feel bad or embarrassed.

    Well guess what? That’s exactly how everyone else is thinking of the situation.

  49. Sunflower*

    #1, I hope your husband re-consider going to work. His manager wouldn’t have offered unless he knows the other employees won’t give him a hard time. If his coworkers like him before, they will still like him after. He can always try it and quit again if he can’t handle it.

  50. kib*

    LW1 – your husband’s boss is lucky he’s being nice and keeping the job open, because most bosses would go “ok” and just let him go for making what’s really a stupid decision in the end. if he can’t realize that he can go back cause this could happen again and he’ll just be job hopping, needs to realize that.

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      What? No! Holy judgement. He’s not “lucky” that his boss is acting appropriately and he didn’t make a stupid decision. And what in the world with the it’ll probably happen so take his old job back stuff? And he risks job hopping because it’s going to happen again?

      He had a medical episode that resulted in an embarrassing situation and reacted according to that. It wasn’t a stupid decision to walk out.

      The boss isn’t being nice. The boss is acting the way a boss should act in the situation.

    2. Mona-Lisa Saperstein*

      I don’t agree with this take at all. I think that the majority of bosses wouldn’t want to lose a good employee over a medical incident. I don’t think it’s about the boss “being nice,” I think he’s making a business decision (and a human one).

  51. RagingADHD*

    Since LW1’s husband was so humiliated by the incident that he *quit his job,* I can’t help but wonder how he’d feel about being written and commented about here. With that level of shame, I doubt he would shrug it off as anonymous. After all, many LWs and commenters go to great lengths to anonymize their workplaces, far more than this seems to be.

    LW1, did you even ask if he was okay with becoming blog fodder? How would he feel if a coworker recognized this?

    Is there a pattern in your relationship of you dismissing his feelings as overthinking, and telling him to get over it? Because I can assure you, that never, in the history of feelings, has ever helped anyone actually get over anything. Respect, understanding, time, and privacy are far more helpful.

    1. pancakes*

      I’m not sure what you mean about anonymizing. There are thousands of big box stores in the US, probably hundreds of people who experience gastric distress every day, and no particular details given about this store in the letter. It’s about as nondescript as could be. If someone nonetheless thinks they recognize a coworker in the letter, I hope their response would be along the lines of, “poor guy, I can understand how he’d be terribly embarrassed but I hope he re-considers and comes back.” The story is only “blog fodder” for jerks. Hopefully there aren’t many of those among the husband’s coworkers. Talking about them online won’t increase or decrease their numbers.

      1. Jennifer*

        I think this is a pretty insensitive reply. If I told my spouse I was so mortified by something I didn’t want to return to work, I wouldn’t be happy if I’d found out they’d written to an advice column about it, anonymously or not.

        Plus, there are a lot of more jerks on the planet than many people here seem to realize. Wouldn’t the husband be in a better position to know how many of them work at his former company than the LW is? Not to mention the fact that this is a public place so that adds even another element.

        1. pancakes*

          I don’t think we can attempt to quantify the number of jerks in the world, or in the letter writer’s husband’s life, and I don’t think we need to. If the husband feels that his coworkers are going to be jerks about this, of course he’s well within his right to not go back. But none of us know that, and it doesn’t make sense to take for granted that that’s the case. “If” is key. It’s key to your “if I told my spouse” scenario as well. I wouldn’t take it for granted that absolutely everyone shares your horror of being anonymously discussed online. I don’t doubt there are many people who feel that way, but by the same token as your last paragraph, isn’t the letter writer better-positioned to know whether their husband is one of them than any of us?

      2. RagingADHD*

        How long has it been since you or a close friend worked in a big box store? The general company culture in retail or warehouse environments does not tend to be particularly sensitive to workers’ feelings or, you know, human dignity.

        1. pancakes*

          It’s not that I disagree with you on any of that. It’s that I don’t think that’s a good reason to try to make the letter writer feel bad for having written in. And I’m not sure how exactly you’re connecting the dots between “big box stores are mostly bad places to work and can be dehumanizing” and “this guy’s coworkers probably read this site and will recognize him in this letter and the situation will be even worse as a result.”

  52. Hiring Mgr*

    I don’t think #5 is a “trap” but I see how it can feel weird or disappointing when someone who you hope might hire you recommends you look into something else – it can make it seem like they’re not that interested in you regardless of how it’s meant.

    1. NotATrapOP5*

      OP5 Here: Yes, I did have that twinge of ‘oh…did I not hit the mark?’, and because they still moved me forward for their own position it left me very confused. (Obviously, or I wouldn’t have written in!)

      But I’ve since been thinking of it as the compliment I believe they intended, and treating it as such. It’s nice to be wanted!

  53. Meow*

    LW #5 – I’ve had it happen twice where I applied for a position at a company and they suggested I apply and/or for a different position there instead. Both times I ended up with the job they recommended instead of the one I initially applied for. It’s a good thing! Not to mention, you’re basically getting two shots at getting hired instead of just one (unless the other position is really not what you’re looking for, or a big pay difference or something).

    1. NotATrapOP5*

      OP5 Here: Gosh, so I’m learning! I had no idea this was such a…well not occurrence but certainly more commonplace than my peer group and I have encountered.
      Thus far the first role still has my principle interest, but the second does have its own charms. Fingers crossed one of them lands. Thanks for the positive thoughts!

  54. Mama Sarah*

    Talking to the poop talk in another direction, LW 1, one of my all time favorite quotes from my former boss (a collegiate runner who went to the Olympic trails) is “if you haven’t pooped yourself, you’re not training hard enough”. A column in RW once asked runners about their most embarrassing moments. Best one was short and to the point: “like most runners, I’ve shat myself”. Every runner has a poop story (yes, I farted after a long speed workout…no, it wasn’t just a fart). The body does all sorts of amazing things….wishing you and your husband the best of health.

  55. For #1's Husband*

    Greetings! I have ulcerative colitis and have not only had many close calls at work and in other inconvenient environments, but have indeed “not made it in time” while at work. I was working in a public area with only one other employee in the building, so I did have to stick it out the rest of the shift after cleaning up. My coworker, who knew immediately what had happened after I rushed by the office to let her know I was abandoning my post (implied: to use the restroom — though within two steps that was moot), asked in a gentle/lighthearted way afterward if I’d made it, which surprised me a little because I hadn’t known her to be the most empathetic person, and expressed sympathy when I honestly told her I hadn’t. She reassured me next time, I shouldn’t bother letting her know about the desk abandonment and should just go.

    All to say, #1’s Husband, you’re not alone and your coworkers may very well surprise you with how they choose to handle it. They may, mercifully, say nothing at all. It happens and there’s no shame in it. All the best wishes from here!

  56. Office Lobster DJ*

    And, of course, let’s add the old truth: Say it actually is some sort of loyalty test, would you WANT to work somewhere so brazenly manipulative with candidates? Apply to the other job and think of it as a test of your own, LW5 — does the company handle this professionally, as they should, or do things get weird and dysfunctional?

  57. kilo*

    OP1 – I have nothing really to add, but sympathy. I have IBS, and I just want to hug your husband and then have a beer with him (except I’m not drinking at the moment, as it seems to make my symptoms worse). I totally understand how embarrassing that must have been, but really no one is going to judge him. And if they are, then hoo-boy does that reflect much more badly on them than hubby. Hang in there both of you. In a few years time this will feel much less intense.

  58. ManagerInNameOnly*

    My heart goes out to your husband. I too have a chronic digestive issue, and during flareups I pass out and fall off the toilet. Last week, it happened at work for the first time in all these decades. The fall caused a foot injury, a day off to see if it was broken, and now I’ll be using a cane for a few weeks. I’m mortified, but everyone at work has been absolutely wonderful about it. Sometimes people will surprise you with their graciousness. It sounds like your husband’s boss is being very gracious about this, and I hope hubby will be able to go back to his job. Sending thoughts of peace and harmony to your husband, as I really do know how it feels to have embarrassing medical stuff happen in public. He has much more support and good will than he may realize!

  59. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

    I’m curious about LW #2. Wouldn’t the new system be considered mandatory training? How does her boss not know that she hasn’t completed the training? I would say talk to your manager and tell them that susan is not completing her training and it is interfering with you work

  60. Not_Me*

    LW1, I know right now your husband feels bad and embarrassed, but unless he works with some really horrible people, no one is going to laugh at him or think anything bad. However, I do understand why he wants to resign. But please tell him to just think about it. If it’s a large store, maybe he can go to a different dept?

    A long time ago, I had a coworker who also pooped herself in front of all of us. I can assure you, none of us laughed at her or talked about her behind her back. We felt bad and hoped she was ok, and we showed her the same compassion we would want if it were one of us that happened to. (it really could happen to anyone)

    Also, is it possible for him to carry a change of clothes? If his job offers staff lockers, he can just keep it in there all the time for if he needs it. Or could he wear a pad? I’m not sure if these are good solutions for your husband’s issue but maybe he can consider it.

  61. Macaroni Penguin*

    OP1) I mean, hasn’t everyone at one point or another had a fecal accident at work? I know I have. It’s normal for your partner to feel embarrassed. Though seriously, it isn’t a big deal. It’s much more memorable for someone to quit over a medically caused biological accident. If they like their job, they should return to it. Guaranteed that, if they eve. noticed, that coworkers feel nothing but empathy.

  62. Delta Delta*

    #4 – Coworker: I’m giving my notice. Boss: I’m mad so you need to leave sooner. Coworker: but this causes visa problems for me. Boss: possible removal from the nation and potential future inadmissibility seem like the right consequences for quitting your job.

    Just saying OP4, you may also consider whether this is the kind of person you actually want to work for.

  63. Anonanonanonanonanon*

    OP1, I think this is probably a lot more common than your husband realizes. Incontinence is associated with a number of different medical conditions. I’ve struggled with it since experiencing Level 3 tears during both of my births. I totally understand the shame, but I really think people will be a lot more chill about it than your husband thinks.

  64. cleo*

    OP1 – several years ago, a co-worker of mine had a similar accident. I helped him by canceling all of his commitments for the day so he could go home. I felt nothing but sympathy for him and honestly had forgotten about it by the time I saw him again. One of the maintenance people was kind of a loud jerk about having to clean up the smelly bathroom (fortunately not in front of my coworker) but that reflected poorly on him and if I’d heard him complain about it after the fact I would have shut it down.

    1. Casper Lives*

      I feel lots of sympathy for LW’s husband. Sometimes things happen in human bodies. I’m fortunate I’ve never had that occur at work but teen periods were awful in high school.

      I’m not sure that does reflect badly on the maintenance guy, though. He’s cleaning up a non family member’s excrement. Yes, it’s gross. Most maintenance workers aren’t trained for biohazards and aren’t given adequate supplies, but are forced to clean up biohazards anyway. Give him an opportunity to complain on the day of. Unless you or your coworker would’ve done it instead?

      1. Jennifer*

        +1 I would complain about having to clean up someone’s excrement as well if it wasn’t a part of my normal responsibilities. I think he would have had good standing to refuse.

      2. cleo*

        Yeah, when I wrote this I really wasn’t thinking about biohazards. It was in the men’s room so I never saw the state of the bathroom.

        And in trying to reassure the LW’s husband, I was probably sounded too harsh on the maintenance guy. I remember being a little annoyed that he was complaining so loudly in a public hallway and worrying about embarrassing the guy who’d had the accident, but it was an unusual situation and it didn’t change my opinion of him.

  65. Pounce de Lion*

    Maybe the husband is right. Maybe he knows that he doesn’t work with a group of mature, understanding adults. Maybe he knows that some are immature jerks who will never let him live this incident down. And maybe he has observed that jerk talk has been tolerated in the past, and has no reason to think it will be different for him. I see this as a “teachable moment” for the manager, who should shut down jokes about the incident while reminding everyone about being respectful. This will help the husband, and will also reassure the whole team of how they can expect to be treated if something like this happens to them in the future.

  66. Spicy Tuna*

    LW #1 – When I was in 6th grade (circa 1985), a girl wet her pants during class. The teacher took her to bathroom and the nurse’s office and when the teacher returned, she explained that our classmate was burning up with fever and probably had a bladder infection or other illness. The girl was out for a few days and when she came back, no one said a word.

    If a group of 6th graders can manage to not tease, pick on, or otherwise make life miserable for a fellow student, I think your husband’s co-workers can probably be expected to behave at least as maturely as 11 year olds.

  67. The Rafters*

    OP 1, no one is judging your husband nor do they think he is gross. Most of my coworkers and I have had some sort of incident during our careers, leaking stoma bags, heavier than usual periods, vomiting, etc. It happens. Unless he’s deliberately smearing feces on the walls, no one cares except for hoping he is okay!

  68. FindingDory*

    Similar to Spicy Tuna’s posting re LW#1, but only I was that 5th grader. We had a small bathroom in the back of our classroom, and I didn’t make it and vomited everywhere. My mom picked me up and I just knew I never was going back to school. But I did and no one batted an eye.

  69. Don Kedick*

    LW 1’s husband, it is no big deal. Especially if you knew how many people did this on a daily basis who actually had no medical issue.

  70. Jennifer*

    LW1 – I get that this affects you too, but I think you should respect your husband’s point of view. He worked there, you didn’t. He is in a better position to know the kind of people he works with, not to mention the customers that may have been present when this happened. I think a lot of people here sometimes tend to overestimate how mature and understanding people actually are. Yes, there are people who will be understanding, but some will not. And even if they don’t make jokes to his face, they will likely remember it. I get why he doesn’t want to be guy who pooped his pants at this company for the rest of his life. Leave him alone.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      You can’t really just “leave alone” the reality of having an unemployed spouse, especially if this is something that’s likely to happen again at some point in some job given that it’s a medical issue.

      1. Jennifer*

        You absolutely can. “Leave him alone” meaning accept that this is his decision and find another way to resolve the problem. Meaning adjusting your budget, finding a remote job where he’s near a bathroom at all times, etc. There are options beyond “badger my spouse until he goes back into a mortifying situation.”

          1. RagingADHD*

            Badgering is in the ear of the recipient, not the intentions of the badgerer.

            Questioning his feelings and his decision, encouraging the LW to regale him with other peoples’ mortifying stories, urging him to reconsider something he has already refused to discuss?

            IDK what you want to call it, but when someone is upset and humiliated, that kind of thing sure feels like being badgered.

            1. pancakes*

              You seem to be assuming that the letter writer is going to take all of the advice that’s been offered by various commenters. I don’t think that’s likely.

        1. GreyjoyGardens*

          I don’t know if this is the LW’s situation, but sometimes “adjusting your budget” can come down to “allow utilities to be shut off” or even “move in with family members, who may not be very kind or functional, or else be homeless.”

          Lots of families really do depend on two paychecks. LW’s husband doesn’t have to go back to the old job if he really feels like his coworkers will never let him live it down, but he might well *need to find something else ASAP* if they are financially precarious. Not everyone has the luxury of being allowed a long period of unemployment.

    2. Macaroni Penguin*

      If the husband doesn’t go back to work at the original job, he needs a plan. A plan to address the new financial realities, his health, and/ or getting a new job. Since its apparently hard to find employment in their area, the husband needs to think about his choices very carefully. One half of a partnership shouldn’t quit their job without considering how to make the family budget work.

  71. PayRaven*

    LW1: Something else that may be valuable here is that your husband’s situation isn’t inevitable. It was created by a shitty (pun intended) work culture that values people being on the floor and doesn’t care if they have access to basic needs. Basically: the brand of retail capitalism we have made this happen, not him, and it’s happened to so many more people than just him.

    1. pancakes*

      Come on, now. I’m as anti-capitalism as anyone, but workers in, say, worker-owned co-ops aren’t magically exempt from gastric problems, bouts of food poisoning, etc. We’re all still going to have human bodies even if we manage to organize our work lives around something better than capitalism!

      1. PayRaven*

        Oh, for sure! I’m just saying that a reasonable system allows humans to deal with their human bodies while at work.

  72. SehrAnon*

    Don’t feel too bad, LW1.

    I was in a very public national park in Hawaii last year, and the sudden shift from being at sea level to Haleakala caused me to have a painless but prolific nosebleed. Just standing there getting pictures, felt pressure, felt the pressure let up, and it was like the elevator scene in the Shining! Pretty embarrassing at the time, but the reaction wasn’t “oh, what a gross person.” Stuff happens to everyone!

  73. Elizabeth West*

    Some stores don’t let employees use the customer bathrooms. If OP1’s husband’s store goes by this rule, he’s probably afraid this will happen again since the staff bathroom is hard to get to in a hurry.

    If he wants to go back, he could ask his boss that he be allowed to use the customer restrooms if necessary. They’re often more conveniently located and easier to access. This would be a reasonable accommodation for him.

    1. Don't Send Your Kids to Hudson University*

      Yes! If I were a friend of LW’s husband, I would be encouraging him to return to work and initiate the interactive process under the ADA. Requesting to use the customer/public restroom is very likely a reasonable accommodation, but of course more information would probably be needed to confirm that advice.

  74. GreyjoyGardens*

    Dear LW1, Tell your husband that my assumption wouldn’t be “oh gross!”, but “oh the poor guy, I bet he has a medical condition or maybe ate some bad seafood! I hope he feels better!” Bodies malfunction, accidents happen. We’re not androids or genetically-engineered Cetagandans.

    If your husband is really worried about this happening again, I suggest “adult protective undergarments” – they are really quite discreet nowadays. They pull up and don’t look like “adult diapers.” And when soiled they can be discarded. It will be a lot easier on your husband if he can wear these and carry around a couple of spares. BTW, I think there is a BIG market for these judging by the aisles in the supermarket and drugstore! I can assure you your husband won’t be the only one!

  75. Anon_Manager*

    LW1 – As someone with Crohn’s Disease I can relate. I have had many accidents at work. I suggest he have an available change of clothes handy as well as a package of wet wipes and a large ziplock bag for his soiled clothes. As some folks have suggested, sometimes protective undergarments can help (however, some of the incontinence ones are more designed for urinary incontinence and might not work particularly well for his specific issues). I was very upfront with my manager about my situation and what my needs were as well as what I had in place to deal with the issues (but this will depend on the manager).

    I totally understand the embarrassment. Bodily functions are generally such a taboo topic instead of acknowledging that everyone poops. And sometimes there are… issues. And a lot of places don’t have convenient toilets.

    Another thing I might suggest for him is to find a support group or therapist. With a lot of these conditions, there is a lot to process mentally (in addition to physically). It doesn’t make sense to resign from a job just because one has an accident. If he has a digestive disorder, more likely than not, it’s going to happen again. So he probably will want to find healthy ways of mentally dealing with the stress that this disorder has on his day-to-day life.

  76. Don't Send Your Kids to Hudson University*

    I’m not sure if this has been suggested in the thread already, but to LW’s husband with the medical issue, have you ever considered whether you need a reasonable accommodation under the ADA? The difficulty with accessing the employee restroom seems like a place to start a conversation if he chooses to remain. Perhaps he could request access to customer/public restrooms if they are located more conveniently to his typical work area or might give him an alternative in another emergency situation. All of that aside, I’m sorry this happened.

  77. Not always right*

    Op5: Take this as a good thing! I’ve been in the same situation twice. Both times the alternative jobs were the ones I ended up with. Both times were not only a better fit, but better pay and chances for moving up.

    1. NotATrapOP5*

      OP5 Here: Having indeed been treating it as a good thing since writing in! Thus far, Role 1 still seems to be my favorite, but I am glad I’m going through the process on Role 2 as well. Fingers crossed!

  78. Eliza*

    I also have a digestive disorder, and this has happened to me. No one has EVER not been understanding – and I’ve even had quite a few share their own stories of similar incidents with me. I’ve been living with this disease a long time, and have learned that it’s hard enough without adding shame on top of it. I know that’s easier said than done, and I am still a little embarrassed when I have to tell a new boss about an accident, but after years and years of people only being kind, the embarrassment has lessened.

  79. Be the change you want to see*

    Am I the only person who has had an interviewer recommend another role and it WAS a trap? Granted, I wasn’t a very good fit for the role he was interviewing for. So when he said “Your resume isn’t a very good fit for this job, but we have another opening for a , are you interested in that?” I said I was. Then he revealed that it was a ruse, there was no other role, and he just wanted to see if I was truly interested in the role he was interviewing for.

  80. Squireel*

    For the digestion mishap letter, I was initially thinking the husband did the right thing, but, by pooping himself and then immediately quitting, he will forever be the dude who pooped himself and flounced. In a retail environment, that’s the kind of story that stays for a long time, even with staff turnover. If he goes back to work, he has a chance to overwrite part of that legacy and help people forget. But this also sounds like an incredibly personal and humiliating experience, and I think the best thing OP can do is support him in his choice. I doubt he worked at the only big-box store in the commutable area, and most retailers are absolutely desperate for good workers right now in the US. (Ten years of retail management experience here.)

  81. Laura H.*

    Oh OP 1, I feel for your husband. It’s embarrassing when any bodily excretion goes where it should not/ misses the product that is supposed to prevent or majorly lessen a wardrobe mishap. It’s not difficult to manage, but I know I feel like people know when I have those moments.

    Best I can recommend is pack a kit- mine includes an extra pair of undies and bottoms, extra incontinence or period pads, or disposable underwear, as well as wipes to clean myself a little. It helps.

    OP, all the sympathy to your husband.

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